(RxWiki News) Measles is a highly contagious disease that has become rare in the US. But outbreaks of the disease can still occur, often after a person becomes infected abroad and carries the disease back home. Now it appears that people in Texas are becoming infected with the virus.
According to Tarrant County Public Health (TCPH), 14 cases of measles have been discovered in Texas so far during 2013.
The Texas Department of State Health Services (TDSHS) issued a Health Alert on Friday urging residents to protect themselves by getting vaccinated.
"Talk to your doctor about your vaccination status."
TCPH reported that nine of the 14 measles cases have developed within the last month, and all the latest cases have occurred in Tarrant County, located in North Texas. The region has experienced the bulk of 2013 measles infections.
Dallas and Denton counties both have reported two cases during 2013 and Harris County has reported one. There were no reported measles cases in Texas during 2012 and six cases were reported during 2011.
Measles is highly contagious and spreads through the air, like when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
"Measles is so contagious that if one person has it, 90 percent of the people close to that person who are not immune or vaccinated will also become infected with the measles virus," reported TDSHS.
"There are potentially hundreds of people exposed in the North Texas area," TDSHS noted in the official Health Alert.
All of the new Tarrant County cases are connected to one previously discovered case, says TCPH. This earlier case was discovered in an adult who had recently traveled outside of the US.
In the Health Alert, TDSHS reminded the public that two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine are recommended for everyone born after 1957. The first dose is ideally received at 12 months of age, and the second during the ages of 4 to 6. If there is a high risk for exposure, a vaccination can be given earlier.
"People should check their immunization status with their health care provider," said TDSHS.
According to TDSHS, symptoms of measles include a rash that begins on the face and spreads to the trunk of the body. A high fever, cough, runny nose and red eyes are also common.
There is typically about two weeks between the time of exposure to measles and the time a rash begins to develop. "People are contagious from four days before onset of rash to four days after the appearance of rash," noted TDSHS.
Measles leads to an ear infection in about one out of every 10 childhood cases, pneumonia in up to one out of 20 childhood cases, and death in about one or two out of 1,000 childhood cases, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).