Texas megachurch linked to 21 measles cases
A Texas megachurch linked to at least 21 cases of measles has been trying to contain the outbreak by hosting vaccination clinics this week, officials said.
According to a report from The Associated Press, the outbreak started when a person who contracted measles overseas visited Eagle Mountain International Church in Newark, about 20 miles north of Fort Worth, Texas. Health department officials said those sickened ranged in age from 4-months to 44-years-old. All of the school-age children with measles were home-schooled.
In Tarrant County, where the church is located, 11 of the 16 people with measles were not vaccinated while the others may have had at least one measles vaccination. None of the five people infected in nearby Denton County have been vaccinated.
In a sermon posted online, senior pastor Terri Pearsons encouraged those who haven’t been vaccinated to do so, adding that the Old Testament is “full of precautionary measures.”
Measles is spread by coughing, sneezing and close personal contact with infected people; symptoms include a fever, cough, and a rash on the face. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that children get two doses of the combined vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella, called the MMR. The first dose should be given when the child is 12 to 15 months old and the second at 4 to 6 years old.
Vaccination opt-out rates nationwide have been creeping up since the mid-2000s, spurred in part by the belief that the vaccinations routinely given to infants could lead to autism, despite scientific evidence to the contrary.
Robert Hayes, risk manager with Kenneth Copeland Ministries, said they have held several vaccination clinics since the outbreak. He said the church has never advised against immunization against measles or seeking medical care.
He said if people are still choosing to not be immunized and they’ve been exposed to the measles, they are being asked to isolate themselves until it is clear they are not infected.
The incubation period for measles is about two weeks from exposure to fever. People are contagious from four days before getting the rash to four days before breaking out in a measles rash.
Texas Department of State Health Services spokeswoman Christine Mann said so far across the state there have been 27 cases of the measles this year, and that five of those cases were not connected in any way to the latest outbreak. She said it is unclear whether a case recently diagnosed in Harris County, where Houston is located, is tied to the outbreak. There were no cases in the state last year and six the year before.
The last case of measles reported in the State of Louisiana was in 2008, according to the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, but Louisiana law requires children age four or older who are entering kindergarten, pre-kindergarten or Head Start programs this year to be vaccinated for measles.
But there are ways around that law.
With an outbreak of measles just 400 miles from Jennings this week, some parents may be reconsidering the decision to not vaccinate their children. Others still believe that risks of vaccinations outweigh the risks of contracting a disease such as the measles.
The Jennings Daily News would like to hear your thoughts about this issue. Do you take the risks of vaccinating children with the possibilities of complications or do you take the risks of having an outbreak happen here at home? Submit your opinions to jdne...@bellsouth.net.
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