Tarrant County residents got a sobering reminder of how important it is to vaccinate children when public health officials this week confirmed the first case of measles in the county since 2013.
A Northeast Tarrant County resident who had recently traveled to Wichita, Kansas, where 11 measles cases have been verified, was apparently exposed to the highly contagious disease while attending a softball tournament early this month.
Unfortunately, more than 30 other Texans who attended the event may have been exposed as well.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, measles is the most deadly of all childhood rash/fever illnesses. It is highly communicable, meaning it can spread easily through coughing and sneezing, even breathing in close contact with an infected person.
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It also can take up to three weeks to incubate, sometimes making it difficult to determine when or where a person contracted the illness.
But the virus is almost entirely preventable by way of an easily obtained vaccine, usually administered just after a child’s first birthday.
Since 1963, the measles vaccine has been in wide use, leading to a greater than 99 percent reduction in confirmed cases in the U.S.
Still, many Americans wrongly assume that such illnesses are vestiges of less enlightened times and all but nonexistent. As a result, many fail to get their kids the vaccines that can ensure that these diseases do indeed remain things of the past.
Similarly, a recent anti-vaccination movement advanced by some scientists and celebrities reportedly found a link between vaccines and autism in children. But such theories have repeatedly been proven wrong.
The state of Texas requires K-12 students to be immunized for certain preventable diseases, measles among them.
Parents still have several weeks to get children vaccinated before the school year begins.
And while it is tempting for some to suggest that the measles outbreak conspicuously coincides with the influx of Central American children to the Texas border, there is no evidence to substantiate a link.
The real concern for Texans should be getting their own kids vaccinated by September.
For more information about measles and available vaccination resources, see Bill Hanna’s Wednesday story, “Measles case confirmed on Northeast Tarrant County.”