Texas health department issues measles alert, urges immunization

AUSTIN, TX - Citing four confirmed measles cases in the last month and nine cases for the year, the Texas Department of State Health Services has issued a health alert and is urging immunization against this highly contagious illness.

State health officials are asking health care providers to be on alert for potential exposures and patients with measles symptoms, particularly in the North Texas area. The four most recently confirmed cases are from Tarrant County. Other Texas counties with cases this year include Dallas (2), Denton (2) and Harris (1).

"To my knowledge, we've had no cases of measles reported here in Deep East Texas," said Sharon Shaw, the administrator of the Angelina County & Cities.

There were no measles cases reported in 2012 and six cases in 2011.

Shaw said the Angelina County & Cities Health District already has a network of school nurses, healthcare providers, family physicians, and emergency room doctors and staff members in place that reports signs and symptoms of measles and 30 or 40 other infectious diseases back to the ACCHD.

Measles is a highly contagious respiratory illness spread by contact with an infected person through coughing and sneezing. Measles is so contagious that if one person has it, 90 percent of the people close to that person who are not immune or vaccinated will also become infected with the measles virus.

State health officials urge immunization to protect against and prevent the spread of measles. People should check their immunization status with their health care provider.

The incubation period of measles is about two weeks from exposure to onset of rash. People are contagious from four days before onset of rash to four days after the appearance of rash. The rash usually begins on the face and spreads to the trunk. Other symptoms include fever (higher than 101 degrees), cough, runny nose and sore eyes.

Doctors should consider measles in their diagnosis if they have a patient with a rash and fever. If measles is suspected, they should report the patient to their local health department as soon as possible. People who have measles or are suspected of having measles should seek medical attention and otherwise stay home until four days after the rash appeared.

Vaccination even shortly before or after exposure may prevent the disease or lessen the symptoms in people who are infected with measles. Immune globulin given up to six days after exposure may prevent disease among susceptible or unvaccinated people at high risk for complications, such as pregnant women, people with weak immune systems and children too young to be vaccinated.

I just called Sharon Shaw at the Angelina County & Cities Health District about the measles alert issued by the Texas Department of State Health Services. Sharon said to her knowledge, no cases of measles have been reported in Deep East Texas. She said they have a network of school nurses, family physicians, healthcare providers, and ER personnel all over the Deep East Texas area that is always on the lookout for any symptoms of measles or any of 30 or 40 other infectious diseases.

"We watch for this stuff all the time," Shaw said. "Right now, there's no cause for alarm. We'll continue to be on the alert for any new cases in our area."