What The First Measles Case in Tarrant County Means for Your Child
Tarrant County Public Health has confirmed the first case of measles in the area since 2015.
This is the fourth case of measles confirmed in North Texas this year and the fourteenth in the state. Health officials say the patient recently traveled internationally to an area that has seen an uptick in measles and this case is not related to any previous infections reported in North Texas.
“This is an important case to take note of because we already know that Tarrant County is a hot spot for potential outbreaks of diseases like the measles,” said Jason Terk, M.D, a Cook Children’s pediatrician and a nationally known advocate for vaccines. “Even though this is an imported case, we are more likely to have a wider outbreak of measles in our area because of the number of unvaccinated people and especially the people who are unvaccinated and live in unvaccinated clusters.”
Currently, there are no recommendations for early vaccination for babies who are not traveling to other countries.
"The scale of the problem is vastly different in other countries than these scattered cases here," Dr. Terk said. "Right now, and always, people need to make decisions based upon a thoughtful conversation with their doctor. We are seeing a signal of the problem we have been warning about. Even in the larger outbreaks in places like Washington, there are no recommendations for early vaccination for babies under 12 months of age. The health department follows this closely and will make formal recommendations if needed for any changes in vaccine schedule."
Peter Hotez, M.D., who is director of the Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development, co-authored a study in 2018 on vaccine exemptions published by the Public Library of Science Journal of Medicine.
Texas is one of 18 states that allows non-medical exemptions for vaccines and the report named Tarrant County and Fort Worth specifically as national “hot spots” for a potential outbreak.
In an editorial in the Star-Telegram, Dr. Hotez urged parents to provide immunization for their children, warning that “we are extremely vulnerable to a measles outbreak in Texas.”
Measles was declared eliminated from the United States in 2000 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention thanks to a highly effective vaccination program.
But as more parents are refusing vaccines for their children, despite scientific proof that they are safe and effective, measles has made a comeback. The CDC reports that there are more than 260 measles cases in 12 states with exemption rates continuing to rise.
Earlier this week, Collin County confirmed its second case of measles and Denton County confirmed a case in February.
Measles is an airborne disease spread by coughing and sneezing. It causes a reddish rash, high fever, cough, runny nose and watery eyes. It usually lasts one to two weeks. The rash begins on the face and head and then proceeds downward and outward to the hands and feet. It fades in the same order it began, from head to feet.
Measles is a vaccine-preventable disease. Adults who have received a measles vaccine series are considered immune. Those who have not been immunized against measles, or have never had measles, should contact their healthcare provider. Residents considering foreign travel should always check their health status beforehand.
Most people born in 1957 or after should have documentation of at least one dose of MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella) vaccine or other evidence of immunity to measles. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends two doses of the vaccine. The first dose should be given at 12 months of age and the second between the ages of 4 to 6 years.
Two Cook Children's pediatricians explain why the anti-vaccine movement is especially difficult to understand.
“I have lived through the era where I’ve seen vaccines come and save children’s lives. I have stood in line to get the polio vaccine,” said Britt Nelson, M.D.. “I grew up with a great deal of anxiety about all of these diseases. That’s the piece that is missing in our society now, no one is anxious about these diseases.”
Measles is one of the most contagious diseases known to exist. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the virus can live for up to two hours in the air where an infected person coughed or sneezed.
As we are seeing measles again, we thought it would be important for people to know a few things about this incredibly contagious disease from Jason Terk, M.D., a Cook Children's pediatrician in Keller and a nationally known advocate for vaccines:
- Measles starts out looking like a bad cold with runny nose, cough, red and watery eyes, and high fever.
- Two or three days after the initial symptoms begin, tiny white spots may appear in the mouth that are only seen with measles called Koplik spots.
- Three to five days after the initial symptoms begin, a rash will appear as flat red spots on the face at the hairline and spread downward to the neck, torso, arms, legs and then feet. Small raised bumps may appear on top of the flat red spots.
- The spots may become so numerous that they combine to create an overall red appearance to the entire body.
- Fevers as high as 104° F will be present when the rash appears.
- Measles is the most contagious infectious disease known and is spread by coughing and sneezing. The virus particles are suspended in the air for up to two hours where an infected person has coughed or sneezed.
- If you are exposed to the measles and have not been vaccinated, you have a 90 percent chance of getting the measles.
- A person with measles is contagious from 4 days before through 4 days after the rash appears.
- One out of every 4 people with measles will be hospitalized.
- One out of every 1000 people with the measles will develop swelling of the brain which can lead to brain damage and death.
- One out of every 20 children with measles gets pneumonia which is the most common cause of death from measles in children.
- For every 1000 children who get measles, one to two will die from it.