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Manatee Bay Elementary students have option to stay at home due to measles cases

Parents of students at Manatee Bay Elementary have option to keep kids out of school due to measles
Parents of students at Manatee Bay Elementary have option to keep kids out of school due to measles 01:58

WESTON — Parents of students who attend Manatee Bay Elementary School in Weston have the option to keep their kids home from school due to confirmed measles cases.

This comes at the direction from Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo.

Broward Superintendent Dr. Peter Licata said Thursday is the last day for parents to decide if their child, whether vaccinated or not, will stay home for the next 21 days and take online, continuing education where they will get assignments without teachers.

"It is safe and I walked the campus. But for those staying home, we're going to try and individualize it. It will not be virtual," said Licata.

The superintendent updated the school board at their meeting on Wednesday afternoon and said the confirmed cases of measles remained at 6. The total number of unvaccinated students at the school is 33.

"It's a challenging time as we know. One to ensure that all of our kids are getting what they need educationally, but also making sure that the parents know that the school is clean," said board member Torey Alston. 

Manatee Bay Elementary administrators said 200 students didn't show up for class on Tuesday. School leaders reported 174 student absences on Wednesday.

Earlier this week, Licata visited the school campus to reassure staff, students and parents concerned about the outbreak.

"We are not allowed to keep children from coming to school. But if the state feels that's in the best interest, they'll deem that as a state of emergency for the school and be able to keep students that are not vaccinated from the school, but that's their decision. We don't have that authority."

Florida Department of Health officials say they're identifying close contacts to those with the virus, but they have not issued any emergency order.

Until then, district officials can do little more than clean and sanitize the school. 

District leaders see no county-wide issues because all known confirmed cases are at one school. 

"I think we're really fortunate that it hasn't spread to other schools. Some of these kids have siblings, older siblings," said school board member Brenda Fam.  

The Florida Department of Health is carrying out an epidemiological investigation surrounding the multiple cases of measles at the school.

"Please note all details regarding the investigation are confidential," the agency stated. "DOH-Broward is continuously working with all partners including Broward County Public Schools and local hospitals to identify contacts that are at risk of transmission."

More than 90 percent of Floridians are vaccinated against measles 01:25

The school district ordered new air filters for the school and every surface to be cleaned by a special machine used during COVID-19.

"I mean obviously you have concerns but my children are vaccinated," said parent Stacey Zannini.  

"We went through the pandemic a couple years ago and everybody kind of knows the situation. If you're vaccinated, it is what it is. I mean you're gonna send your kid to school, do what you can," said parent Jared Andres.   

More than 50 children with symptoms or at high risk have come through Memorial Healthcare. Because measles is so contagious, doctors are urging parents not to bring children with symptoms to the emergency room unless they are in danger. Instead, doctors say to call a pediatrician first.

"Parents of children who aren't immune need to be very vigilant now that we know measles is in our community," said Dr. Ronald Ford with Joe Dimaggio Children's Hospital.

DOH-Broward has notified local healthcare providers, stating that those who have received the full series of the Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) immunization are 98% protected and are highly unlikely to contract the disease.

Some parents said they checked right away to see if their child had both doses of the recommended vaccine.

"That was the first thing, I double-checked right away to actually make sure they had both of their doses when they were little just to make sure I had that peace of mind," said Zannini.  

According to DOH-Broward, measles is highly contagious and can remain infectious in the air and on surfaces for up to two hours, with over a 90% contraction rate among susceptible contacts, including those who are immunocompromised or have not received the full series of MMR vaccinations.

DOH-Broward stated that symptoms generally begin about eight to 14 hours after exposure but can range up to 21 days. Transmission is possible four days before the rash becomes visible and four days after it appears. Additionally, in some cases, measles can result in severe outcomes, including pneumonia and encephalitis.

The most prominent symptom of measles is the rash that develops on the face and neck, which can spread to the rest of the body. However, DOH-Broward notes that other symptoms include:

  • High fever
  • Cough
  • Runny nose
  • Red, watery eyes
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