Tarrant County measles outbreak is cause for concer

Posted Monday, Aug. 19, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Before 2011, Tarrant County had gone 17 years without a single reported case of measles.

That year, two cases were recorded in the county and six statewide.

After no cases were reported in the state in 2012, there have been 14 this year with 10 of them in Tarrant County, the public health department reports.

While that’s no cause for alarm, it is reason for concern, because measles — all but eradicated in this country through vaccinations — is highly contagious.

It can be spread easily by breathing, coughing, sneezing or coming in close contact with an infected person, health officials say.

Considering that most area school districts will begin the fall term next week, the potential spread of an infectious virus is worrisome because an infected student or teacher could come in contact with dozens of people during the day.

Of course, all students are required to have had two doses of measles vaccine (along with a list of other vaccinations) before enrolling.

The school districts and the health department have been urging parents to have their children vaccinated early, before classes start.

But invariably some kids will show up for the first day of school without the required immunization.

Adults who have not been immunized against the virus or have never had measles should contact a healthcare provider.

The current outbreak in Tarrant County can be traced to one person, a parent who was infected while traveling in a foreign country.

Health officials are expecting the number of cases here to rise.

The measles virus, which causes a reddish rash, high fever, cough, runny nose and watery eyes, may stay suspended in the air for up to two hours after an infectious person has been present, according to the health department.

It can be spread from four days before the rash appears to four days afterward.

While about 1 million children worldwide die each year from measles, this country has spent five decades wiping out the virus.

That means any number of new cases here is troubling.

Parents should be alert and, by all means, children should be immunized before starting school.

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