Physicians in and around Ellis County should be on the lookout for measles as officials investigate six cases among unvaccinated people, state health officials said.
“Take precautions and consider measles as a possible diagnosis in patients with a fever and rash in addition to a cough, runny nose or conjunctivitis,” the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) said in a statement. “The highly contagious nature of measles means it’s possible more cases will occur in the community. People involved in the outbreak have connections to Waxahachie and Midlothian.”
DSHS sent an alert on possible measles exposure Friday after a contagious person visited the ShowBiz Cinemas in Waxahachie on Jan.9. Since then, five cases have been reported, officials said, though none is connected to the movie theater. And now DSHS says “an outbreak of measles has been confirmed in Ellis County.”
Keller pediatrician Jason Terk, MD, a member of the TMA Council on Legislation and past president of the Texas Pediatric Society, says the outbreak should serve as a public reminder of the importance of routine immunizations.
“We should be concerned that people who care only about their personal liberty and refuse recommended vaccines may choose such a path for themselves and for their children, and that those choices can harm the rest of us,” Dr. Terk said. “Diseases like measles are kept at bay because a critical mass of people are vaccinated against it. Outbreaks occur when that critical mass is eroded. We are seeing the result of that erosion right now in Ellis County.”
State records show that two Ellis County school districts -- Waxahachie Preparatory Academy and the Italy Independent School District – report that fewer than 80 percent of their kindergartners have been vaccinated against measles.
After measles exposure, rashes usually take about two weeks to develop, and people are contagious from four days before a rash appears until four days after.
“The rash usually begins on the face as flat, red spots and then spreads down the neck and trunk to the rest of the body,” health department officials said. “Other symptoms include a high fever over 101 degrees, cough, runny nose and red, watery eyes.”
Physicians and health care facilities in the area should also use proper infection control, testing, and treatment for measles, including:
- Triaging suspected cases in a separate room with a closed door;
- Providing surgical masks for suspected cases; and
- Keeping staff measles immunity records on file.
More information can be found on DSHS’ website.
There are also plenty of resources to help prevent measles and other infectious disease outbreaks and educate patients on immunizations at TMA’s Be Wise – Immunize webpage.