Measles Cases Confirmed in Tarrant County

By Frank Heinz
|  Wednesday, Apr 6, 2011  |  Updated 12:24 AM CDT
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The two cases are the first for Tarrant County in nearly two decades.

Kevin Cokely, NBCDFW.com

The two cases are the first for Tarrant County in nearly two decades.

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The Tarrant County Public Health Department is investigating the first confirmed cases of measles in the county in nearly two decades.

The first case involves a woman in her 30s who is believed to have contracted the virus during a recent trip to Orlando, Fla. The second case is a man who lives with the woman.

"We have recommended that these two individuals self-isolate themselves, isolate themselves from their household members and exclude themselves from the group setting or public setting," said Dr. Anita Kurian of the county health department.

Other cases linked to Orlando are being reported in Minnesota and Houston, where an 11-month-old is recovering after a family trip.

"You have to bet that you're putting a lot of people in a small space, and that's a recipe for disaster as far as getting a very infectious agent in a lot of young people who haven't been vaccinated," Barbaro said.

Measles symptoms include fever, runny nose, cough, white spots in the mouth and a reddish rash all over the body.

"It's worse than influenza," said Dr. Daniel Barbaro, infectious disease specialist with Tarrant County Infectious Disease Associates. "It makes people very ill for seven to 14 days."

Anyone believing they are showing the symptoms of the virus are urged to seek medical attention as soon as possible and to take great strides to avoid contact with others as it is highly contagious.

Measles is transmitted through the air by breathing, coughing or sneezing and it can remain contagious in the air or on surfaces for up to two hours. Any person exposed to the virus, who is not immune, will probably get the virus, officials with the Tarrant County Health Department said.

The virus kills nearly 200,000 around the world each year, more than half in India. But measles was considered considered eliminated in the United States more than 10 years ago.

"What's happened is that parents are not getting their children vaccinated," Barbaro said.

The two cases are the first confirmed in the county in 17 years.

"It's not a common infection anymore," Barbaro said. "A lot of people, a lot of the younger doctors, have never seen a case of this, which is a problem in itself. If you haven't seen it, you don't think about it."

Measles is a vaccine-preventable disease. Children should get two doses of the vaccine and adults who may not have been immunized should contact their doctor to see if they need the vaccine.

Left untreated, the disease can cause complications which can lead to death, blindness, encephalitis or respiratory infections. Severe measles is more likely in poorly nourished children or those with weakened immune systems, according to the World Health Organization.

For detailed information on measles:

NBC DFW's Kevin Cokely contributed to this report.

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