Health officials have identified two more confirmed cases of measles in Pinellas County, bringing the total to three, and they are preparing for the possibility of more.
The two additional cases are from the same household, and are separate from the original case announced Monday, the Florida Department of Health said Wednesday.
As with the first case, the two new patients were not vaccinated against the highly contagious virus. These are the first cases of the measles in Pinellas County in 20 years, officials said.
The health department in Pinellas is investigating and working to identify others who might have been exposed, department spokeswoman Maggie Hall said.
In all three instances, the patients acquired the virus in the county.
"Itís a roll of the dice if there will be more (cases)," said Hall. She added that the department is prepared for an outbreak, if needed. "Itís hard to tell, but we are ready. We are deep in investigating."
The last confirmed case of measles in Pinellas County was Aug. 13, 1998.
Measles is a virus that spreads in the air when an infected person breathes, coughs or sneezes. The first symptoms are a fever that could spike to 105 degrees, a persistent cough, runny nose, and red, watery eyes. A blotchy rash can spread from the head to the feet, according to the health department.
If untreated, measles can become severe, especially in young children and people with compromised immune systems.
The virus was once eradicated in the U.S., thanks to immunizations, but a recent shift in views against routine vaccinations by some parent groups has contributed to its return.
There are no outbreaks reported in Florida, but two residents and one visitor were confirmed to have measles after international trips last month, according to the health department. So far this year, four Florida residents and three visitors were in the state while considered "infectious."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 107 cases of measles nationwide so far this year. Officials reported 118 cases last year and 86 cases in 2016.
Those who are not vaccinated but are exposed to measles should avoid public places, like school and work, for up to 21 days. The health department urges anyone experiencing symptoms of measles to see their health care provider and report suspected cases.
Contact Justine Griffin at [email protected] or (727) 893-8467. Follow @SunBizGriffin.