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10 functional health predictions for 2024, according to a doctor and a wellness expert

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10 functional health predictions for 2024, according to a doctor and a wellness expert

Heading into a new year, we all want to stay as healthy as possible — and some doctors believe that identifying and eliminating the issues that cause disease are critical actions to take, as opposed to treating and reacting to symptoms afterward. 

Known as “functional medicine,” this alternative form of health care has drawn mixed reviews over the years. 

Some claim it lacks scientific evidence and that the treatments aren’t standardized. Yet some studies — including one by Cleveland Clinic — have found that functional medicine was associated with improvements in health-related quality of life. 

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Shilpa P. Saxena, M.D., chief medical officer of Forum Health in Tampa, Florida, shared with Fox News Digital the 10 functional health trends she expects will see growth in 2024.

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Melanie Avalon, a health influencer, entrepreneur and biohacker based in Atlanta, Georgia, also weighed in on these emerging trends.

1. Preventative assessments

Identifying the earliest signs of disease or dysfunction, functional medicine doctors believe, is key to managing health imbalances, said Saxena.  

“Whether it’s genomics, hormones, microbiome assessments or nutrition-oriented physical examination, better information leads to bigger transformation,” she told Fox News Digital.

Preventative cancer screenings have given at least 12 million more years of life and have saved at least $6.5 trillion in added economic impact, according to a recent study. (iStock)

The conventional medical system typically approaches disease and illness retroactively, often by prescribing drugs for conditions defined by an active barometer — such as medication for diabetes, statins for problematic cholesterol and chemotherapy for late-stage cancer, Avalon agreed.

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“A paradigm shift toward diagnostics, which can establish earlier benchmarks for disease pathways, will be key to the shift from disease management to disease prevention,” she told Fox News Digital.

2. Proactive versus reactive care

Preventative cancer screenings have given Americans at least 12 million more years of life and saved at least $6.5 trillion in added economic impact, according to a recent study published in BMC Health Services Research.

“Savvy patients are figuring out that waiting for an issue to be ‘bad enough’ to warrant a mediocre treatment isn’t a wise strategy for long-term health,” Saxena said. 

Lung cancer scan

The “trifecta of data, AI algorithms and a human eye when appropriate transforms what could be an overwhelming pool of information into applicable, personalized action steps,” Avalon said. (iStock)

“More patients are turning to functional and integrative medicine providers who understand that early detection and prevention are smarter, more sustainable strategies for well-being.”

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Patients should take an active role in understanding their own risk factors — and take action to mitigate them, said Avalon.

“Savvy patients are figuring out that waiting for an issue to be ‘bad enough’ to warrant a mediocre treatment isn’t a wise strategy for long-term health.”

As an example, “a person with a genetic tendency for Alzheimer’s disease can work with functional and integrative medicine providers, and implement lifestyle and biohacking techniques to reduce the chances of developing cognitive decline,” she said.

3. Wearables and data-driven change

Wearing a wristband, watch or ring that monitors vital health information is becoming mainstream, Saxena said. 

“Not long ago, devices like these were targeted at health enthusiasts, but now we will see progressive medical offices asking to synchronize your wearable’s data to guide your care plan and track your response to it along the way,” she predicted.

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Apple Watch

Wearing a wristband, watch or ring that monitors vital health information is becoming mainstream, one health expert said.   (Reuters)

Avalon said she is “thrilled” that today’s wearable devices are providing doctors with a more detailed, comprehensive overview of their patients, “beyond the snapshot of a doctor’s office.”

She added, “These wearables are also excellent for prevention, as they can often identify changes in a person’s biology indicating a path toward illness before the person feels acutely sick, allowing them to rest and potentially fight off illness before it takes over.”

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Heading into 2024, Avalon predicted that wearables may also become pertinent in the pet sphere, allowing cat and dog owners to better identify and tackle illness in their furry loved ones.

4. Smartphone apps

As more people advocate for their own health care, there’s been a proliferation of apps that can track virtually any aspect of wellness, Saxena noted — “anything from your next anticipated period, if you’re in atrial fibrillation, or how many carbs are in the smoothie you’re about to consume,” she said.  

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“Access to information is pushing the patient into the driver’s seat.”

Stock photo shows woman checking health app on smartphone

As more people become interested in advocating for their own health care, a proliferation of apps can track virtually any aspect of their wellness. (CyberGuy.com)

As Avalon pointed out, many apps use artificial intelligence to help users keep track of and interpret their data, whether it’s monitoring bloodwork, tracking carb and fat-burning data or testing blood glucose levels.

“Some apps even provide access to personalized human help within the app,” she said.

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“This trifecta of data, AI algorithms and a human eye when appropriate transforms what could be an overwhelming pool of information into applicable, personalized action steps.”

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5. Regenerative medicine

Saxena predicted that in 2024, there will be a growth in, and demand for, regenerative medicine — the practice of enabling the body to “repair, regenerate and restore itself to a state of well-being,” as defined by Mayo Clinic.

“Access to information is pushing the patient into the driver’s seat.”

“With functional medicine, you can choose to take your own stem cells and inject them back into your knee and literally regrow cartilage to experience dramatically less pain and increased function,” Saxena said, as an example. 

“Options like these are available for some of the most common degenerative diseases and make procedures like knee replacements with clunky hardware look like antiquated procedures.”

Woman doc exam

Identifying and eliminating the issues that cause disease will become critical — rather than just treating the symptoms afterward.  (iStock)

While there has been some controversy surrounding stem cell treatments, Avalon noted, she said she believes there is “enormous regenerative potential within our very bodies.”

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“The advent and evolution of endogenous stem cell-releasing supplements may also provide a pathway to support the healing power of stem cells,” she predicted.

6. IV therapies

Hydration IV bars have grown in popularity in recent years — but beyond one-size-fits-all treatments, Saxena said she foresees greater demand for more tailored IV therapies next year.

IV THERAPY CRAZE HAS AMERICANS PUMPING VITAMINS INTO THEIR VEINS: RESULTS ARE ‘PRETTY DRAMATIC’

“Functional health care professionals can select from a menu of research-driven innovative therapies that utilize strategic nutrients, ultraviolet light and ozone delivered directly into the bloodstream to reduce inflammation, remove persistent infections, resolve autoimmunity and remove toxins — all carefully prescribed to heal the patient during each stage of their recovery journey,” she told Fox News Digital.

woman with IV

Hydration IV bars have grown in popularity in recent years; the year 2024 may see even greater demand for more tailored IV therapies. (iStock)

While Avalon said she believes IV therapy has a “great potential benefit” in supporting health and combating disease, she recommended that patients “do their homework” and make sure they’re working with a knowledgeable practitioner. 

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“In particular, are they receiving the nutrients and therapies appropriate for them, in the most effective and cost-sensitive way possible?” 

7. Gut health

Gut health has long been recognized as a major factor in overall wellness, as the balance of bacteria within the digestive system impacts everything from the immune system to cardiovascular risk.

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“Old becomes new again as functional medicine leverages ancient healing systems’ evidence alongside modern scientific research,” Saxena predicted. 

“Connections between the gut microbiome, immunity and brain performance are opportunities that promise improved protection from some of the most feared consequences of disease and aging.”

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Gut health split

Gut health has long been recognized as a major factor in overall wellness, as the balance of bacteria within the digestive system impacts everything from the immune system to cardiovascular risk. (iStock)

“Modern medicine is finally catching up to what ancient wisdom has known for centuries — that health and disease often starts in the gut,” Avalon added. 

8. Metabolic dysfunction

Sugar, obesity and insulin resistance will continue to be revealed as the “undiagnosed causes of disease and death for almost every adult in America,” Saxena predicted.

In addition to using traditional medications to keep disease at bay, the doctor said that functional medicine will help patients make the necessary lifestyle choices to “correct the cause and enhance the health of every single cell in the body.”

“Modern medicine is finally catching up to what ancient wisdom has known for centuries — that health and disease often starts in the gut.”

Even simple lifestyle changes can have profound effects on metabolic health, Avalon agreed, “which itself is often the foundation for many subsequent diseases.”

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To prevent and potentially reverse metabolic syndrome, Avalon recommended embracing a whole-foods diet, practicing time-restricted eating, getting proper sleep and ensuring daily exercise. 

Healthy living

Even simple lifestyle changes can have profound effects on metabolic health, “which itself is often the foundation for many subsequent diseases.” (iStock)

“Better yet, optimizing just one of these areas often leads to a snowball effect, inspiring vitality in the other areas as well,” she told Fox News Digital.

9. Disease-reversing devices

Historically, prescriptions and procedures have been the mainstay of insurance-covered care, Saxena noted.  

Red light therapy

A myriad of devices can help support optimal physical and mental health and wellness, including red light therapy. (iStock)

“While getting coverage for the latest ‘wonder’ drug may feel like winning the lottery, functional medicine patients will be employing the latest innovations in neurofeedback, pulsed electromagnetic field or vagal nerve stimulation to counteract the effects of everything from post-COVID heart disease to stress-related cognitive decline,” she predicted.

As a biohacker, Avalon relies on a myriad of devices to help support optimal physical and mental health and wellness. 

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“I personally use many of these devices — from sound wave therapy, to red and NIR light, to fNIRS neurofeedback — to fight insomnia, reduce my stress levels, combat anxiety and boost physical performance,” she told Fox News Digital.

10. Demand for better health care

In 2024, Saxena said she believes consumers will invest more in their health and demand better care. 

Patient and doctor

In 2024, consumers will invest more in their health and demand better care, predicted one doctor.  (iStock)

“They will be more willing to pay out of pocket to receive personalized care, price transparency and the freedom to try the latest therapies and treatments without restriction from insurance companies,” she predicted. 

“More consumers will start realizing that receiving proper care will be less expensive in the end than to suffer from the same condition for years without the underlying condition ever being addressed.”

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With the increasing amount of health information accessible to the general population, Avalon said there’s been a growing demand for more personalized care. 

“Unless or until we have a medical and insurance system truly based on disease prevention, patients are going to need to continue to pursue access via their wallet to proper comprehensive and individualized health care,” she said.

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Fasting-like diet could slow the aging process, study suggests: ‘Living longer and healthier’

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Fasting-like diet could slow the aging process, study suggests: ‘Living longer and healthier’

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Could adopting a fasting-like diet help slow down aging?

That’s the claim of researchers from the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology in Los Angeles, who led a study on the benefits of a “fasting-mimicking diet” (FMD).

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In addition to reducing biological age and immune system aging, the diet was linked to reductions in insulin resistance and liver fat, according to a press release from the university.

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The findings, published in Nature Communications on Feb. 20, were based on clinical trials that included 100 men and women between 18 and 70 years old.

Half of the group was randomly assigned to the FMD, adhering to the diet for five days followed by 25 days of normal eating for three or four cycles.

A fasting-mimicking diet was found to reduce biological age and immune system aging, as well as insulin resistance and liver fat, in a new study. (iStock)

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The control group ate either a normal diet or a Mediterranean-style diet.

The people in the FMD group showed decreased abdominal and liver fat, as well as reduced risk of metabolic syndrome, which can lead to heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

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Those on the experimental diet also showed signs of a more youthful immune system.

Overall, the FMD adopters’ biological age was reduced by an average of 2.5 years based on the functioning of their cells and tissues, the researchers found.

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Drinking tea

In the USC study, the fasting-mimicking diet included energy bars, plant-based soups, chip snacks, energy drinks and tea. (iStock)

“I think it is surprising that three cycles of the FMD done for only five days a month (15 days total) — which allow people to have modified/low calorie but regular meals and without changing the normal diet of the participants for the rest of the month — can have such an effect on biological age, body fat and a range of disease risk factors,” senior author Valter Longo, USC Leonard Davis School Professor, told Fox News Digital.

FASTING COULD REDUCE SIGNS OF ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE, STUDIES SUGGEST: ‘PROFOUND EFFECTS’

If the cycles were continued for three cycles a year for 20 years, Longo projected that the FMD could reduce biological age by 11 years and reduce the risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes by 10% to 30%. 

“However, these are only simulations — and additional studies are necessary to confirm this potential of the FMD cycles,” he added.

Energy drinks

Half of the group was randomly assigned to the FMD, adhering to the diet for five days followed by 25 days of normal eating for three or four cycles. (iStock)

Prior studies in mice have identified additional benefits of the FMD, including reduced risk of age-related diseases like cancer, heart disease and diabetes, Vongo pointed out.

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The diet has been previously to reduced chemo side effects, greater stem cell regeneration and reduced signs of dementia, the release stated.

What is the fasting-mimicking diet?

Originally developed by Longo, the FMD is a five-day diet that is low in overall calories, protein and carbohydrates and high in unsaturated fat.

The eating plan is designed to mimic a pure fast while still allowing consumption of essential nutrients.

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“The fasting-mimicking diet (FMD), also known as the ProLon Diet, has been around for approximately seven years and has been studied in multiple clinical trials,” Erin Palinski-Wade, a New Jersey-based registered dietitian, told Fox News Digital.

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“By following a structured, very low-calorie nutrition plan for five days, the goal is to provide the benefits of a prolonged fast while still allowing individuals to eat,” said Palinski-Wade, who was not involved in the USC study.

“The diet is designed to transition the body into a fasting state while nourishing it with specific nutrients to avoid activating food-sensing pathways.”

Woman reaches for water glass near bed

“[The diet] allows for physical, biological and epigenetic benefits without the need for prolonged water-only fasts,” an expert said.  (iStock)

In the USC study, the fasting-mimicking diet included energy bars, plant-based soups, chip snacks, energy drinks and tea, according to the release. 

The FMD group also received a supplement with “high levels of minerals, vitamins and essential fatty acids.”

The specific diet that was tested in the two trials is commercially available, but Longo said that university rules prevent him from sharing the name of the product.

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“In an era obsessed with superficial youth and quick fixes, the fasting-mimicking diet offers a tangible method to systematically reverse aging and enhance metabolic health.”

“I think it is important to begin to consider the plant-based FMD intervention described here for two to three times a year as a way to prevent and treat some diseases, together with the right type of drugs,” Longo said. 

This could aid in “returning to full health and living longer and healthier, rather than continuing to take progressively more drugs as we age,” he added.

For people aiming to prevent or treat diseases through the use of an FMD, Longo said people should first talk to a doctor.

Other experts weigh in on the diet

Melanie Avalon, an Atlanta-based health influencer who hosts “The Intermittent Fasting Podcast,” was not involved in the study, but noted that the research provides “solid data” on how dietary and lifestyle changes affect the aging process.

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“Our society’s fascination with youth and longevity is well-known; however, measuring progress and biological improvements is often subjective,” she told Fox News Digital. 

Woman meal plan

While fasting is often pursued for its visible weight loss benefits, an expert noted that this study highlights its extended benefits for metabolic health. (iStock)

“The concept of ‘chronological age’ can mislead when assessing the body’s aging rate and predicting lifespan,” Avalon went on. 

“For the first time, this study reveals that a fasting-mimicking diet can reduce one’s biological age.”

While traditional fasting can be daunting for some, FMD can be a more feasible alternative.

“It allows for physical, biological and epigenetic benefits without the need for prolonged water-only fasts,” she said. 

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While fasting is often pursued for its visible weight loss benefits, Avalon noted that this study highlights FMD’s extended benefits for metabolic health.

“In an era obsessed with superficial youth and quick fixes, the fasting-mimicking diet offers a tangible method to systematically reverse aging and enhance metabolic health,” she said.

“Unlike the costly and extreme measures of ‘biohacking,’ the FMD provides an accessible and practical solution to reduce biological age.”

Potential risks and limitations

Tanya Freirich, a registered dietitian nutritionist in Charlotte, North Carolina, who practices as The Lupus Dietitian, cautioned that she would not recommend the fasting-mimicking diet to any person who has struggled with an eating disorder in the past or who has trouble controlling their blood sugar.

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“Restricting and changing eating patterns may have negative effects,” she said. 

Woman eating healthy

The fasting-mimicking diet could aid in “returning to full health and living longer and healthier, rather than continuing to take progressively more drugs as we age,” the study author said. (iStock)

Palinski-Wade agreed that those with underlying health conditions should speak to their physician before considering a restrictive diet plan. 

“A very low-calorie diet may not be appropriate for those with uncontrolled diabetes, a history of hypoglycemia, a history of disordered eating, or those who are pregnant or nursing,” she said.

Before making any dietary changes, Freirich stressed the need for “extensive education” to be provided.

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“While changing the timing and amount of our food intake is an approach worth examining, it is also important to remember to choose health-promoting foods daily,” the dietitian continued. 

“The food choices we make daily have a large impact on our weight, blood sugars, heart health, immune system and more. If fasting doesn’t feel like the right choice for you, speaking with a registered dietitian about the dietary changes for your health is always recommended.”

Nutritionist

Before making any dietary changes, a nutritionist (not pictured) told Fox News Digital that people need “extensive education” to be provided. (iStock)

The study had some limitations, both dietitians noted.

“It was a small sample size of healthy young-ish individuals,” Freirich said. “The results may be helpful and useful for other people after more research is completed in a larger age range and including people with other medical concerns.”  

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Palinski-Wade reiterated that the studies on FMD have included smaller sample sizes of generally healthy adults, which means the results cannot be generalized to all populations.

“FMD may offer promising benefits and may be an excellent tool to consider for those looking to improve long-term health and reduce future disease risk, but more research is needed on larger and more diverse populations to fully understand the benefits it may offer,” she added.

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Kidney swap saves two lives, plus surprising COVID effects and IVF uncertainty

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Kidney swap saves two lives, plus surprising COVID effects and IVF uncertainty

‘SUPERBLY TIMED’ – Four Texas residents are forever connected by two kidney donations in different cities. The recipients, donors and doctors share their story. Continue reading…

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Senior women should aim for a mixture of aerobic and weight-lifting exercises on a regular basis, a doctor said. (iStock)

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Gerald Branim, 55, was a marathon runner when he got COVID, which led to a paralyzed diaphragm that stopped him in his tracks.  (Institute for Advanced Reconstruction)

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Newborn baby

A decision from the Alabama Supreme Court has led to a halt in IVF services at some locations and a flurry of protests from providers in the fertility space. (iStock)

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Amid measles outbreaks, Florida Department of Health speaks out against ‘false information’

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Amid measles outbreaks, Florida Department of Health speaks out against ‘false information’

Amid ongoing measles outbreaks at Florida schools, the state’s Department of Health released an updated statement on Wednesday, which was provided to Fox News Digital.

There have been a total of nine confirmed measles cases as of Tuesday in Broward County, with seven of them reported at Manatee Bay Elementary in Weston, according to local reports.

Last week, Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo issued a letter to parents urging them to make their own decisions about whether to send their children to school.

AMID FLORIDA MEASLES OUTBREAK, SURGEON GENERAL LETS PARENTS DECIDE WHETHER TO SEND UNVACCINATED KIDS TO SCHOOL

Typical guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is for unvaccinated children who have not had the measles to stay home for up to 21 days in the event of a potential exposure at school.

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Amid ongoing measles outbreaks at Florida schools, the state’s Department of Health has released an updated statement.  (iStock)

“However, due to the high immunity rate in the community, as well as the burden on families and the educational cost of healthy children missing school, DOH is deferring to parents or guardians to make decisions about school attendance,” Ladapo’s letter stated. 

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The Florida Department of Health (FDOH) noted that details of the agency’s investigations into the outbreak are “confidential,” and claimed that “many media outlets are reporting false information and politicizing this outbreak.”

FDOH released a statement to ensure that Floridians are “correctly informed.”

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Boy vaccination

Doctors have expressed their support of measles vaccinations and cautioned against sending unvaccinated kids to school during an outbreak. (iStock)

At Manatee Bay Elementary, where the bulk of the cases have been reported, 97% of students have received at least one dose of the MMR immunization, according to the agency.

On Tuesday, the local news outlet WSVN reported that about 30% of students at Manatee Bay Elementary were unvaccinated, according to the school board.

“Outbreaks are occurring in multiple states, and the national immunization rate for measles is less than 92%,” the statement said.

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When a case of measles is confirmed in a school, FDOH recommends that students who have not had a prior infection or vaccination remain at home for up to 21 days.

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“This is the period of time that the virus can be transmitted. This recommendation has been made at Manatee Bay Elementary,” the agency said.

Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo

Amid measles outbreaks in various parts of the U.S., Florida surgeon general Dr. Joseph Ladapo has issued guidance to parents regarding kids’ school attendance. He also said, “This recommendation may change as epidemiological investigations continue.” (Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/Sipa USA/Sipa via AP Images)

The last confirmed case of measles was on Feb. 15, 2024, which means the end of the 21-day infectious period is March 7, 2024.

“This may change as epidemiological investigations continue,” the statement noted.

FDOH said it has been working with Manatee Bay Elementary to educate parents on measles.

“Any parent who is concerned for their child, regardless of their immunization status, may choose to keep their children home.”

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“Any parent who is concerned for their child, regardless of their immunization status, may choose to keep their children home and utilize continuous learning during this time,” the agency said.  

“Due to the high immunity rate, as well as the burden on families and educational cost of healthy children missing school, the surgeon general’s current guidance ensures that parents or guardians are able to make the best decisions for their families regarding school attendance,” the statement continued.

measles on a male torso

As of Tuesday, there have been a total of nine confirmed measles cases in Broward County, with seven of them reported at Manatee Bay Elementary in Weston, according to local reports. (iStock )

Other doctors have expressed their support of measles vaccinations and cautioned against sending unvaccinated kids to school during an outbreak.

“At a time when there’s a resurgence of measles in the world and travel is not restricted, and people are coming into this country with measles, it’s extremely important that our children be vaccinated against it,” Dr. Marc Siegel, clinical professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center and a Fox News medical contributor, told Fox News Digital last week.

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Amid the current measles outbreak, he said, “individual choice has to give way to public health and community preservation or safety,” Siegel said.

“The problem here is that if kids start going to school unvaccinated against measles, given how contagious it is and how effective the vaccine is, they are putting other children at risk,” the doctor added.

In a statement sent to Fox News Digital, a member of the District 2 School Board in Broward County stated that the board is working with the state and local health departments. 

“I appreciate the leadership and support by the surgeon general and welcome all resources to help our parents and children,” says Torey Alston, who was formerly a county commissioner. 

“The safety and academic success of our children remains the No. 1 priority.”

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As of Feb. 22, 2024, a total of 35 measles cases had been reported by 15 jurisdictions across the U.S., in Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York City, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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