Despite a small but growing number of measles cases throughout the state, public health officials said there still have been no confirmed cases of the disease in Grayson County.
Concerns of a possible measles case in Grayson County materialized last week after a viral social media post about a local child being tested for the disease. Grayson County Heath Department Director Amanda Ortez said she could not discuss whether any local residents were recently tested for measles, but said, as of Wednesday, the county had no reports of any confirmed cases. In light of the social media post, Ortez said the Health Department has seen a slight increase in the number of residents and callers wanting to know more about their vaccination options.
“Those calls and questions have trickled in over the last week or so,” Ortez said. “We’re happy to see that because that means people are being proactive, reviewing their vaccination history and seeking out those services that would help them prevent disease within their family members or themselves.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes the measles as a highly-contagious virus that lives in the nose and throat. Initial symptoms of the disease often mirror those of colds and the flu, including fever, nasal congestion, watery eyes and coughing. Within three to five days of transmission, infected individuals develop a rash of red spots, which typically appear on the head and neck before spreading downward to the rest of the body. The CDC also reports that the measles is so contagious an estimated 90 percent of those who come into contact with the infected individual, and are not immune themselves, will contract the disease. The measles vaccine was developed in 1963 and the disease was largely considered to be eradicated in the U.S., until recently. Five outbreaks — defined as three or more cases, each — have been recorded this year in Texas, New York and Washington.
Texas has seen seven confirmed cases of the measles in 2019, according to CDC records last updated on Feb. 7. The most recent confirmed case was reported in Denton County, while the remainder have been recorded in Harris, Galveston, Bell and Montgomery counties. The Texas Department of State Health Services reports that Texas had nine confirmed cases of the measles in 2018 and just one case in 2017.
Ortez said the turnaround time for results on potentially-infectious diseases varies and, depending on where an individual is treated, multiple public health agencies may be involved in the process of confirming a case and notifying the public.
“If a Grayson County resident goes elsewhere to be treated and a reportable disease is confirmed, that report will be sent to the community in which they were tested and that information is also sent to the county in which they reside,” Ortez said.
The CDC and Department of State Health Services both recommend that children receive their first dose of the measles vaccine at 12-15 months of age and again at 4-6 years old. The DSHS reports the measles vaccine is effective at a rate of about 97 percent, after two doses. Children too young to be vaccinated and those who have only had one dose of the vaccine are more likely to contract the disease. Adults who have not been vaccinated and those who have not developed an immunity to the measles may become infected.
“We encourage individuals to remain healthy in other ways but to always seek out and stay on schedule with vaccines which will help prevent disease,” Ortez said. “That goes for both children and adults.”