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Officials blame technical error for false report of measles in Pasco

The Florida Department of Health recommends that anyone older than 12 months receive the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine for protection. Since January, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported 940 individual cases of measles in 26 states, the largest number of cases reported in the U.S. since 1994. [Associated Press]

A technical error spurred a flurry of news reports about a measles case in Pasco County over the Memorial Day holiday weekend. But local health officials say there is no such case.

In a news release Tuesday afternoon, the Florida Department of Health in Pasco County said there have been no measles cases in the county there this year. "It has been recently reported that Pasco County had its first positive case of measles this year. This illness was investigated and ruled out as measles."

Media organizations across Central Florida reported a Pasco measles case after a new case was generated on FLHealthCHARTS, a website run by the Florida Department of Health that collects more than 3,000 health statistics about Florida and its counties. The new case was an error, said Melissa Watts, the spokeswoman for the health department in Pasco County.

Original news reports claimed the case came from a child age 4 or younger and was reported on May 16. It would have been the third measles case so far this year in Florida.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Pinellas Health Department investigating measles case in 72-year-old man

"The department of health investigates all reported cases of suspected measles and other reportable diseases. After investigation, the majority of measles reports are determined not to be cases," the news release stated. "Unless otherwise noted, data available on the department of health websites are preliminary and subject to change as investigations unfold."

So far this year, two Florida residents acquired measles in other countries and spent time in Florida while infectious. One of those cases involved a 72-year-old man in Pinellas County. The other case came from Broward County.

Last year, the health department investigated 15 cases of measles. Fewer than 10 cases were reported each year from 2013 to 2017.

Last summer, Pinellas County investigated three cases of measles in unvaccinated adults. They were the first reported cases of measles in Pinellas County in 20 years.

Since January, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported 940 individual cases of measles in 26 states. This is the largest number of cases reported in the U.S. since 1994.

RELATED: In Pinellas, three cases of the measles revive concerns about those who don't vaccinate

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 health department recommends that anyone older than 12 months receive the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine for protection.

Contact Justine Griffin at jgriffin@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8467. Follow @SunBizGriffin.

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