Children’s Medical Center in Dallas is alerting parents in North Texas to take measures to avoid the measles, as clinicians expect a possible rise in cases of this highly contagious respiratory disease.
Causing fever, runny nose, cough, and a rash all over the body, measles predominantly affects children and was officially declared eliminated in 2000. However, the disease has begun to make a comeback, and has been detected in an increasingly high number of patients. In the first four months of 2014, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of measles cases in the U.S. is at an 18-year high.
When compared to the rest of the world, the number of cases of the disease is still low in North and South America, but the increase is a “warning signal for local parents to check their children’s vaccination schedules,” warned the director of infectious disease at Children’s, Dr. Jeffrey S. Khan, also a professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.
Although it is vaccine-preventable and it has few cases in th U.S., the fact that measles is easily transmitted and is related to numerous other diseases, including ear infection, pneumonia, bronchitis and even death, makes it a cause for concern.
There are currently 168 confirmed measles cases in 15 states of the U.S., with the largest outbreaks happening in California and New York. The CDC believes that some of these cases are a result of traveling to and from international destinations, particularly the Philippines. Europe, too, is being hit hard by the disease: from 7,073 cases in 2007, measles has risen 348%, to 31,685 cases in 2013.
North Texas has not experienced a community outbreak in 2014, but individual cases have been identified in Collin and Dallas counties this year. Also, back in August last year, the Texas Department of State Health Services issued a measles alert, with 9 cases being reported surrounding the Fort Worth region among other north-central Texas cities.
Kahn noted a concern for the health of babies less than a year old, who are particularly vulnerable, along with unvaccinated children and adults. Young children who have not had a second inoculation are especially susceptible to the disease, but, due to waning efficacy of earlier vaccines, fully vaccinated older children and adults may also not be entirely protected.
Besides care at home, there is no specific treatment for measles, which may be presented through fever, fatigue, cough, conjunctivitis, runny nose, and red rash. Children with symptoms should be evaluated for measles. The American Academy of Pediatrics and CDC recommend a first dose of the measles, mumps, and rubella combined vaccine at 12 to 15 months and a second dose at 4 to 6 years of age. For families who plan to travel outside the U.S., the CDC recommends that infants 6 to 11 months old get the vaccine.