The Texas Department of State Health Services is now reporting 10 measles cases in the state in 2019, one more than Texas saw all of last year.
The 10th case is in an adult traveler visiting Guadalupe County from the Philippines, where there is an ongoing measles outbreak. DSHS is reminding people what they can do to prevent the disease from spreading.
Measles is a highly contagious respiratory illness transmitted when an infected person coughs or sneezes virus particles into the air. It’s so contagious that if one person is sick and spreading measles, nine out of 10 people around them who aren’t immune will get it, too. The illness usually starts a week or two after someone is exposed to the virus with symptoms like a high fever, cough, runny nose and red, watery eyes.
A few days later, the telltale rash breaks out as flat, red spots on the face and then spreads down the neck and trunk to the rest of the body. A person is contagious about four days before the rash appears to four days after. People with measles should stay home from work or school during that period.
The best way to prevent getting sick is to be immunized with two doses of the measles vaccine. DSHS and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend children receive one dose at 12 to 15 months of age and another at 4 to 6 years. Children too young to be vaccinated or who have only had one dose of vaccine are more likely to get infected and more likely to have severe complications if they do get sick, so immunization is especially important for adults and older children who are around infants and toddlers.
Parents of children who have not been immunized, because they’re too young or for any other reason, may want to discuss options for protecting their child with their health care provider.
People can also limit the spread of measles and other illnesses by washing their hands or using hand sanitizer frequently, covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue or shirt sleeve, disinfecting hard surfaces, and not sharing food, drinks or utensils with people who are sick.
Anyone with measles symptoms who thinks they may have been exposed to the virus should contact their health care provider before going to the doctor’s office. That will let office staff take actions to keep vulnerable patients from being exposed. DSHS has issued a health alert reminding health care providers to consider measles in diagnoses and immediately report suspected cases to public health. The alert also provides advice to providers about limiting the spread of measles in a health care setting and options for preventing illness for susceptible people who have been exposed.
Texas reported nine cases of measles in 2018 and one in 2017. DSHS will continue to update case counts for the current year on its news updates page. Additional background on measles is available at https://www.dshs.texas.gov/idcu/disease/measles.