A TCU student diagnosed with rubella will be out of self-isolation Sunday and ready to restart his school routine, Tarrant County’s chief epidemiologist said Friday.
“He is feeling fine,” said Russell Jones of Tarrant County Public Health.
Health and TCU officials continued to monitor the student and identify anyone who was in close contact with him. They have been in touch with about 70 students.
“So far, no other cases,” Jones said. “We do not have a community outbreak of rubella.”
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Doctors recommend that all children get the MMR shot.
This is the first confirmed case of rubella, also known as German measles, in Texas since 2004, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. The virus, targeted by the MMR vaccine (measles-mumps-rubella), is not spread as easily as measles, health officials said.
“It’s not one of our most contagious diseases,” Jones said, explaining that it is passed by close contact with an infected person — such as sharing a drink.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have declared rubella eliminated in the U.S.
The virus is dangerous for nonimmune pregnant women because it can cause serious birth defects or miscarriages. But health officials stressed that rubella is preventable and that people who received the MMR vaccine are immune.
The TCU student had no contact with infants or pregnant women, health officials said.
A closer look
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describe the measles as “highly contagious.” That virus, which lives in the nose and throat of an infected person, can survive up to two hours in the air after a cough or a sneeze. If other people breathe contaminated air or touch a surface where the virus is present and then touch their eyes, nose or mouth, they can become infected.
Although rubella and the measles are caused by different viruses, they share some characteristics, including a red rash.
Rubella can also be spread through coughing, sneezing or kissing. The CDC has declared it eliminated in the United States. Cases that surface are typically “imported” from regions in which the disease has not been eradicated.
“We see this when people travel and come back,” Jones said.
The World Health Organization declared this year that rubella had been eradicated from the Americas. The New York Times reported in April that countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia want to follow suit.
10 days a person with rubella is contagious before the onset of the rash
Getting the facts
At TCU, officials informed students and employees about the case via email.
“It’s not an outbreak,” said Holly Ellman, TCU spokeswoman. “It’s one case.”
Junior Monica Suarez and her roommate, Alex Kilcoyne, both 20, said they weren’t alarmed because they researched the virus and had been vaccinated.
“I honestly didn’t know what it was at first,” Suarez said.
Kilcoyne said she washes her hands, takes vitamin C and stays clear of people with coughs. “I don’t have time to be sick,” she said.
Students worried about the disease or unclear about whether they should get a vaccine, should contact TCU’s Brown-Lupton Health Center or Tarrant County Public Health.
Children are required to have two shots of the MMR vaccine before they start school, but it is not required for college admission in Texas.
We do not have a community outbreak of rubella.
Russell Jones, the county’s chief epidemiologist
About 98 percent of TCU students are vaccinated, Ellman said. Students can seek an exemption.
“We follow the Texas Department of State Health Services guidelines,” Ellman said in an email. “A student can decline vaccination for medical reasons, in which case a licensed physician must sign the form; or a student can decline for ‘reasons of conscience,’ which may include a religious belief. There is no requirement to explain your reason.”
In Tarrant County last school year, 97.5 percent of kindergartners were immunized.
“We have a well-immunized population,” Jones said. “You try to get as high as you can.”
Staff writer Monica S. Nagy contributed to this report.