Cities across the nation are reporting the return of a highly contagious disease that was declared by the Center for Diseas Control (CDC) to have been eradicated in the U.S. in 2000: Measles. Denton County Public Health reported one case of measles on Feb. 6. Five additional cases have been reported in Southern Texas, according to The Associated Press.
“Measles is airborne and if you’re not protected against measles, then you are at risk of developing measles,” said Marisa Gonzalez, public information officer for Dallas County Health and Human Services (DCHHS).
Measles is an extremely infectious disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), if one person is infected with measles, 90 percent of non-immunized people who are close to the infected person will get the disease. The Associated Press (AP) reports that complications from measles can cause blindness, deafness and pneumonia.
Influenza has been hitting the Metroplex hard with 10 reported deaths according to the Dallas County Health and Human Services (DCHHS). The situation is concerning to many Dallas residents and DCHHS is monitoring the situation closely.
“We’ve actually established a really good working relationships with our hospitals and clinics and so they report to us on a weekly basis,” Gonzalez said.
The flu season in Dallas County is not as severe as it has been in previous years.
“Last year was really bad, especially compared to this year. We had 84 flu-related deaths last season and that was just in Dallas County alone,” Gonzalez said.
She added that the flu season of 2017/2018 in the Metroplex was considered horrific with 154 deaths reported in the metroplex.
There is another situation linked to the outbreaks of both measles and influenza. That is the lack of immunization. Forty-four people have been infected with the measles in the Pacific Northwest. Thirty-seven of those infected were under 10 and had not been vaccinated. AP reports that the anti-vaccination movement is strong in Oregon where people can opt out of getting vaccinations under a non-medical exemption.
“Measles outbreaks happen because people aren’t getting immunized,” said Caroline White, senior manager of the health center at Richland. She said Richland has taken precautions to prevent further infections of these and other diseases.
“Especially with our non-college students [and] with our high school students, they are 100 percent immunized,” she said. International students are also 100 percent immunized, she added, noting that vaccines are offered to all students each fall.
“We did bring in flu shots. We’ve had health center clinics where they came and did flu shots multiple times in the fall,” White said.
The Richland health center and DCHHS acknowledge that the lack of immunization can create health issues. Taking precautions is important.
“Wash your hands. Take your temperature [and] don’t go anywhere if you’ve got temperature,” White said. Gonzales also urged everyone to practice proper hygiene.
“The other thing is to wash your hands constantly before you touch your eyes, nose, mouth. Keep those hands clean and shake your hands and make sure you wash your hands afterwards,” Gonzalez said.
“Get your flu shots, that’s your first line of defense against influenza. We recommend the flu vaccine every year because the strain changes year to year so that’s why it’s important to get it every single year.”
Vaccinations are important to stay healthy and help others avoid infection.
“People [who] have compromised immune systems, elderly people as well, newborns, they are too young to receive that vaccine. So it’s not just about you, it’s about the whole community,” Gonzalez added.
To learn more about where to get an influenza vaccine, check with your doctor, pharmacy, or with an official DCHHS immunization clinic at www.dallascounty.org/department/hhs/immunizationhours.html