Local health officials closely monitoring for potential measles outbreak


    PHOTO: Baby with Measles, Photo Date: January 27, 2014. (Photo: CDC Global)

    As measles continues to spread across Texas, local health officials remain on high alert.

    There are now eight confirmed cases of measles in Texas, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

    The illness hasn't reached Travis County, but health officials are bracing for the possibility.

    "Measles is an infectious illness characterized by fever, cough, red watery eyes, and runny nose, followed days later by generalized rash," said Dr. Mary Ann Rodriguez, interim health authority and medical director for Austin Public Health. "It can lead to serious complications, such as brain inflammation or what we call encephalitis, which can lead people to neurological deficits."

    She says they're prepared to open four emergent clinics for vaccinations if a measles outbreak were to hit Travis County. She also says they are working closely with local hospitals to monitor symptom trends.

    "If there are increased people coming into the emergency department for fever and rash or nausea and vomiting, we are alerted if there is a trend," she said.

    She says a population would need to have a 95 percent measles vaccination rate to protect people who aren't able to get the vaccine, like infants and people with autoimmune disorders.

    "Measles has a 90 percent attack rate, meaning if a person is in a room with measles and left and there are 10 people in that room, 9 out of those 10 people will contract measles," she said.

    That could be troubling considering Austin was recently named a top 15 hot spot for people who consciously choose not to vaccinate.

    "That is concerning because some schools in Travis County can have vaccination exception rate up to as high as 49 percent," she said.

    Abigail Bruckshen's son is only sixth months old, and skipping vaccinations wasn't a risk she was willing to take.

    "Just cause I have such a little guy we do vaccinate to try to prevent those diseases from getting to him," Bruckshen. "I think it affects everyone around them and makes it spread as we've seen."

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