(Aug. 6, 2019) – Texas doctors and hospitals have a new tool to fight the ever-increasing measles threat, as the number of people sickened by the infectious yet preventable disease climbs.
The Texas Medical Association and Texas Hospital Association have created a new resource to help physicians, hospitals and other health care professionals combat the highly contagious, yet entirely preventable, respiratory illness.
The document provides the latest recommendations for diagnosing and reporting measles, ways to lessen the spread of the disease, and the effectiveness of immunization to prevent it.
"We had to do something: The resurgence of measles across the U.S. has underscored the importance of vigilance by doctors and all health care providers to be ready to quickly identify possible measles patients, and to rapidly implement infection control measures to prevent measles transmission in health care settings,” said Wendy Chung, MD, chair of TMA’s Council on Science and Public Health.
She added that this joint TMA-THA advisory provides practical recommendations and resources to ensure hospital preparedness to care for patients with measles, while minimizing the impact of any exposure to staff and other patients.
“Hospitals are on the frontlines of disease outbreaks, caring for their patients and communities,” said Ted Shaw, THA president/CEO. “From flu to measles, hospitals know all too well the devastating impact that highly contagious diseases can have. Immunization and prevention are the best strategies, but all health care professionals and providers must be ready to deploy strong infection control measures as well.”
TMA and THA adapted the information on the advisory from a California Department of Public Health newsletter to physicians and other medical professionals published in April.
Texas health officials last week confirmed 21 measles cases thus far this year, including six in El Paso County, six in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and four in Harris County. As of July 25, 1,164 measles cases have been reported nationwide, the most cases in the past 25 years.
Measles can spread extremely easily: Nine in 10 susceptible people will get sick if they are exposed to the virus. And people don’t even have to touch an infected person to get sick: The virus can survive in the air or on surfaces for up to two hours where an infected person coughed or sneezed.
Physicians urge their patients to immunize themselves and their children against the disease. The MMR vaccine protects against three infectious diseases – measles, mumps and rubella. Measles vaccine recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are as follows:
- Children should receive two doses of MMR vaccine – at age 12 through 15 months, and at age 4 through 6 years, or at least 28 days after the first dose.
- Students at colleges and other post-high school educational institutions who do not have evidence of immunity (a shot record, lab test showing they are immune or had measles in their lifetime, or were born before 1957) need two doses of MMR vaccine, separated by at least 28 days.
- Adults born in 1957 or later who do not have evidence of immunity should get at least one dose of MMR vaccine.
- Health care personnel who do not have evidence of immunity should get two doses of MMR vaccine, separated by at least 28 days.
TMA also provides resources to help prevent measles and other infectious disease outbreaks, and educate people on immunizations at TMA’s Be Wise – ImmunizeSM webpage. TMA’s website also contains useful information to educate people about the measles vaccine, including a video and informational poster.