After numerous Texas residents were diagnosed with measles in the past month, the Department of State Health Services has issued a formal alert against the viral infection.
On the year, the state has logged 14 cases of measles. Compared to last year, when the state reported zero cases, health experts say the disparity is enough to signal an alert. In 2011, there were just six cases.
As such, the DSHS is urging residents to get immunized against the viral infection. If you don't know your immunization status, your health provider can help.
Especially relevant for North Texans: 13 of the 14 cases are in the Dallas-Fort Worth Area. Nine cases have been diagnosed in Tarrant County. Denton and Dallas counties have each had two cases. The other diagnosis is in Harris County.
Moments after the alert was issued, the state announced more cases in Tarrant County, bringing the total to 14. All of the nine cases of measles in Tarrant County are related, the health department has said. One adult contracted the virus abroad and spread it to his child, which triggered the other cases.
Dallas County Health and Human Services Director Zach Thompson said he's been in contact with other county health departments to stay abreast of the situation. While the cases in Dallas are not related to Tarrant, Thompson classified the diagnoses as "a wake up call to the importance of being vaccinated."
"When you talk about a correlation, we understand people congregate together … so there's a possibility of the measles spreading," he said. "That's why we're encouraging Dallas County residents to always check their children's immunization records as well as adults to make sure they're immunized against measles."
According to the Mayo Clinic, measles is an infection that typically affects children. Sympoms include cough, runny nose, inflamed eyes, sore throat, fever and a red, blotchy skin rash. It can be fatal. The majority of victims who succumb to measles are under five-years-old.
The state notes: "The incubation period of measles is about two weeks from exposure to onset of rash. People are contagious from four days before onset of rash to four days after the appearance of rash. The rash usually begins on the face and spreads to the trunk."
According to the DSHS, measles is so contagious that if someone has it, there's a 90 percent chance they will pass it on to a person close to them. It can be spread from four days before the rash appears to four days afterward. The virus can stay in the air for up to two hours after an infectious person has been present.