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North Texas sees spike in measles cases

Profile image for By Bj Lewis / Staff Writer
By Bj Lewis / Staff Writer

North Texas has had a recent spike in measles cases, but thus far the disease has not found its way back into Denton County.

Health officials noted that, despite some community concerns, the county has not had any confirmed measles cases since two were reported earlier this year.

In April, a woman who had traveled to Russia exposed someone here, said Denton County Health Director Bing Burton.

“The individual exposed here was fully vaccinated and had a very atypical case — no symptoms, no fever, no typical measles symptoms but had positive lab results.”

Burton said the outbreak happening in Tarrant County right now is totally separate from Denton County’s two cases.

Measles is rare in countries able to keep well stocked with vaccination supplies, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. One of the earliest written descriptions of measles as a disease was provided by an Arab physician in the ninth century, describing the difference between it and smallpox in his medical notes.

“We don’t see it much anymore because everyone is pretty well vaccinated against it,” said Burton. “That’s what we encourage: parents to fully vaccinate their children — the one dose early and the booster. That is the best thing we can do to protect our families against measles.”

He noted that schools require measles vaccine but parents can claim a philosophical exemption. Officials do not encourage that because when people are exposed, it can be a serious disease.

Burton said that typically he would expect to see no cases in any given year.

“The Tarrant County outbreak, much like our two cases, was from a traveler. In some parts of the world, measles is still endemic,” he said.

As of Monday, Tarrant County was up to nine cases, which makes 14 for the year in Texas, according to Christine Mann, spokeswoman for the Department of State Health Services.

The agency issued a public health alert to local health departments and health care providers on Friday, urging them to test their patients for measles if they presented certain symptoms.

Mann said officials were also urging people to check their immunization records and make sure they are caught up.

“It’s so contagious — if one person has it, 90 percent of the people around that person who are not immune or vaccinated will become infected,” she said.

BJ LEWIS can be reached at 940-566-6875 and via Twitter at @BjlewisDRC.