Measles has reemerged as a public health threat.
This disease was a part of daily life across the United States until the early 1960s, when an average of 549,000 measles cases and 495 measles deaths were reported annually in the United States. These were the statistics during the decade before the measles vaccine was licensed in 1963. In 2000, measles was declared an eliminated disease in the United States, yet the number of reported cases across the United States increased from 37 reported cases in 2004, up to 667 in 2014. Statistics show 764 cases were reported throughout the United States from Jan. 1 through early May.
Worldwide, 19 cases of measles per 1 million persons are reported each year and an estimated 89,780 people die each year from the measles. Outbreaks still occur, as the virus is still commonly transmitted in Europe, Asia and Africa. The majority of the reported cases in the United States have been among people who are not vaccinated against measles and who travel to other countries where the measles virus is common. If you or a family member has not had the measles vaccine, you stand a 90% chance of getting the measles if you come in contact with a person infected with the measles!
In the fall of 2018, an individual who flew round trip from Dallas to Houston to Harlingen was diagnosed with the measles. All passengers on these flights were exposed to the measles virus, and had to be alerted by the airline company and by local public health officials in those cities. There was also the recent quarantine situation on a cruise ship where one confirmed case of measles for one of the passengers required that everyone on the ship had to stay on the ship until everyone had been screened to learn if they had also been exposed to the measles virus from the one person.
Recently, there has been confusion with the knowledge of receiving a positive test result on the Rubella Immunoglobulin (IgG) test, which is used to indicate whether the person has the measles virus. This test is used to measure the level of immunity from the measles, either due to prior exposure or vaccination. You want to test positive for the measles Ig test because it means it is almost impossible for someone to actually get measles. Medical terms can get confusing, which makes it very important for providers and for patients to make sure that both persons understand and confirm that they understand each other during an appointment and when test results are discussed.
So, what exactly are the signs and symptoms of the measles virus? In addition to a high fever, recognizable symptoms include cough, runny nose and red, watery eyes. A person with measles may develop a rash that appears on their face that then spreads to the neck, arms, legs and feet. The CDC states that symptoms related to measles generally appear in about seven to 14 days after a person is infected. The CDC also states that the measles virus is extremely contagious, due to the fact that 90 percent of people who have not received the measles vaccine and who come in contact with a person with this virus will also become infected with the measles virus.
As of this past week, NET Health received confirmation from our regional health partners that there are zero measles cases in East Texas, and there are no cases in the states that border East Texas. Vaccinations are one of the best ways for our community to protect our infants, children, adolescents and adults against vaccine-preventable diseases, and NET Health provides immunizations, regardless of where you may live, to children and adults through the Texas Vaccines for Children Program and the Adult Safety Net Program.
Vaccines for the measles, as well as all types of adult and child immunizations, are available at the NET Health Immunization Clinic, next to the Tyler Municipal Court at 815 N. Broadway Ave. in Tyler. Our office hours are 8 to 11 a.m. and 1 to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Visit our clinic or contact us by visiting MyNETHealth.org.
George Roberts is chief executive officer of NET Health.