Just days ago, it was reported that more measles cases were discovered in Tarrant County, only heightening the awareness of the recent spread of one of the most contagious diseases known to man.
Nearly 21 measles cases have been linked to North Texas counties in only a few short weeks.
Should we be worried?
The answer to that question is yes, according to Crystal Foster, M.D., a family physician on the medical staff at Baylor Medical Center at Irving.
“I honestly do think we should be concerned. 90 percent of people who are not protected against measles will get measles if put into contact with someone who has it. I don’t think this is being blown out of proportion.”
So what do we need to know about measles and what sort of precaution should we take to prevent ourselves?
Measles is a highly contagious viral disease that results in blotchy, red skin abrasions all across the body and inside of the mouth.
The infection spreads through coughs or sneezes and can even be transmitted by being in the same room as someone infected with the virus. It is commonly spread from person-to-person in areas that are highly trafficked by people, such as shopping malls, churches, schools and large-scale events.
While most who contract measles recover without any serious or lasting effects, the infection can be fatal to others.
The symptoms are amazingly similar to the common cold and can include coughing, fever, runny nose, as well as watery and red eyes,” Dr. Foster told CBS-11 in this recent interview.
The noticeable differences are the skin abrasions that eventually make measles very identifiable.
In most cases of measles, small white spots begin to appear in the inside of the mouth then days later a red rash covers the entire body. At this time, the fever can worsen and lymph nodes become much more swollen.
If you suspect your child might have measles, keep them home from school and have them tested by your family physician. The virus is so contagious that many doctors must treat it in hazmat-like suits inside negative pressure rooms, like at Baylor Medical Center at Carrollton. Inside the negative-pressure room, medical tools are disposable, doctors must wear masks, gowns and rubber-gloves, and even the ventilation is separate from the rest of the hospital.
The bottom line: Take measles seriously.
At this time there isn’t a cure for measles. The best prevention method is to receive an MMR vaccination.
If you choose not to vaccinate, you have limited options says Dr. Foster. “The only thing you can do is to teach your children to wash their hands and not to touch things and then put their hands on their face or in their mouth.”
Dr. Foster emphasizes, “remember that measles is highly contagious, so again, vaccination remains the mainstay of prevention.”
If you don’t know whether you received an MMR vaccine or booster before, there is no harm in receiving another for more protection, Dr. Foster explains.