The Texas Department of State Health Services confirms there is a measles outbreak in Ellis County after at least six people have come down with the disease.
“There are very few viruses that are as contagious as this,” explained Dr. Edward Dominguez, director of transplant and infectious diseases at Methodist Dallas Medical Center. “The virus can exist in the same room after that person leaves for up to two hours.”
Measles is spread quickly. Medical experts stress vaccination, because they say 90 percent of those who are not vaccinated and are exposed to the virus will get measles.
The vaccine is 97-percent effective for those who have it.
For a small percentage of people, measles can be deadly.
The state health department put out an alert for potential measles exposure at ShowBiz Cinemas in Waxahachie on Jan. 9 and Main St. Gym in Midlothian on Jan. 16.
The gym had a sign posted in its front door warning anyone who was there that same day to be on the lookout for symptoms, which include fever, watery eyes and a telltale rash.
“I was here last Tuesday,” said Cody Henson, as he walked in for a workout. “I got an email (from the gym), I think it was today, that said there was measles exposure.”
The potential exposure is only for the day the infected person was at the gym or theater. It’s unclear if the cases are related.
“We need to really focus on who gets vaccinated,” Dominguez said. “And have a really good reason for not getting vaccinated if we’re going to opt out.”
People who may have been exposed to the measles should monitor themselves for a rash or any other measles symptoms for up to three weeks. Symptoms include: a rash of flat, red spots that typically begins on the face before spreading to the neck, trunk and elsewhere. Other symptoms include a high fever over 101 degrees, cough, runny nose and red, watery eyes.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, measles can be serious in all age groups but more so for kids under the age of 5 and adults over 20.
Common complications include ear infections, some of which can result in permanent hearing loss. Severe complications may include pneumonia, encephalitis leading to hearing loss or intellectual disability or even death. Pregnant women may give birth prematurely or have a baby with low birth weight.
People are contagious from four days before they get a rash to four days after it appears.
Anyone with these symptoms who was at ShowBiz Cinemas on Jan. 9 or Main St. Gym on Jan. 16 should contact their health care provider and tell them about the exposure to measles. It’s important to call in advance so the provider can take precautions to help prevent staff and other patients from being exposed to measles.
Though rare, more than 100 cases of measles are reported nationally each year, on average.