Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

Local News

August 28, 2013

HEALTH: No reported cases of measles in Cherokee County so far

CHEROKEE COUNTY — Despite reports of an outbreak of 21 cases of measles linked to a Texas megachurch, there have been no reported cases in Cherokee County to date, said Cherokee County Public Health Executive Director Chris Taylor.

According to an Associated Press report, the outbreak in North Texas started when a person who contracted measles overseas visited Eagle Mountain International Church in Newark, north of Fort Worth.

Those sickened ranged in age from four months to 44 years old; school-aged children in this group were home schooled students, the report stated.

Additionally, 11 of the 16 people in Tarrant County – where the church is located – “with measles were not vaccinated while the others may have had at least one measles vaccination, (while) none of the five people infected in nearby Denton County have been vaccinated,” according to the report.

Vaccinations are “always the best start to having a healthy family,” Taylor said.

“Many parents decide not to get the vaccine, some due to religious or other reasons, (and) that decision has both known risks and unintended consequences,” he said. “From time to time in public health, when we work hard to eliminate or reduce a disease burden, we see public awareness and funding begin to fade as well. And when that happens, you often see the return of disease.

“This out-of-sight, out-of-mind mentality can be very destructive,” so health care providers and office continually strive to educate and raise awareness among parents “regarding the safety and efficacy of vaccines,” he said.

In addition, his office has offered a number of after-hour and weekend vaccination clinics during the summer to help extend its reach.

“And of course, immunizations are provided on a walk-in basis, Monday through Thursday from 7 a.m. until noon and 1 p.m. until 6 p.m. at our Jacksonville clinic location,” he said.

Parents are urged to vaccinate their children as soon as possible, and heavily weigh any decision to not immunize family members “against fact and a potential for serious negative outcomes,” Taylor said.

The measles vaccination is part of a group called “MMR” that inoculates against measles, mumps and rubella. These are given after a child turns one, with a follow-up booster shot when a child is between four to six years old.

“Immunity provided by vaccines wanes over time, so an adult who was immunized many years prior, could still be at a higher risk of susceptibility. I cannot say it is impossible to get measles while being vaccinated, but data suggests the chances are not likely,” he said. “WHO (the World Health Organization) states that individuals who get only one dose have 94 percent efficacy in preventing measles, while those who get both doses have 99 percent or higher (rate of efficacy).”

Measles symptoms are marked by an increase in fever that goes to 103˚F or higher; a cough; runny nose; conjunctivitis; and a rash that usually occurs on a patient's head and spreads downward, he said, adding that these symptoms “may mimic other conditions.”

The infection period is four days before and after the presence of a rash, which “usually appears two to four days after fever,” Taylor explained, adding that common complications include pneumonia, ear infection and diarrhea, among others.

Those most at risk to the disease are children, individuals who are immunosuppressed and pregnant women.

“A person typically will be exposed and an incubation period of 10 to 12 days occurs, followed by fever, and within four days, rash, which may be accompanied by additional symptoms,” Taylor explained. “While someone is infection approximately four days after the rash appears, please note that this isn't always the case, and should seek medical advice from a healthcare provider if they suspect measles.”

Parents are advised to keep children with fever or persistent measles symptoms out of school to protect both patient and public.

The Associated Press said that according to Texas Department of State Health Services spokeswoman Christine Mann, there have been reported 27 cases of the measles this year, with none reported in Texas last year.

Additional information about measles may be found through the Texas Department of State Health Services or by contacting Cherokee County Public Health, 903-586-6191.

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