WAXAHACHIE, Texas - There are now six confirmed cases of very contagious measles in Ellis County.
The state health department is trying to contain the outbreak with public awareness. They said everyone who has been diagnosed so far has some connection to Waxahachie or Midlothian.
Those who are diagnosed range in age from 8 months old to as old as 27 years old. None of them were vaccinated.
Health officials believe one may have exposed others at the Show-Biz Cinemas in Waxahachie on Tuesday, Jan. 9. But so far, there are no additional cases linked to the movie theater. Officials do not believe any school or daycare is at risk for exposure.
The measles begins with the appearance of flat red spots on the face. They spread to the neck and the rest of the body. Other symptoms include high fever, cough, runny nose and red watery eyes.
It usually takes two weeks from the time someone is exposed for the rash to develop. People are contagious four days before the rash appears to four days after.
Doctors encourage people who have been exposed to isolate themselves at home during this period except to go to the doctor.
Dr. Dawn Johnson is a pediatrician with Children's Health and is not treating any of the measles patients. She says unvaccinated children under 5 are most likely to develop a severe infection.
“It’s one of the most contagious viruses in the world,” she said. “It’s spread in the air. So just that person who's infected breathing, coughing, sneezing, talking, singing will spread it. It lingers in the air for up to two hours.”
The measles vaccine is recommended for children at 12 months old followed up by another shot at 4 years old. Johnson says a small percentage of the population may not respond to the initial shot, which is why a second one is necessary.
The measles vaccine is required to attend most schools, though an exemption can be requested. Johnson says parents should not hesitate to immunize their children.
“We know that the vaccine is safe, and we know it’s effective in preventing illness,” the doctor said. “We also know that there is no link between autism and the measles vaccine and other autoimmune diseases. Those studies have been proven to be false.”
As for the movie theater, health officials said anyone who attended a movie there on that particular date should continue to monitor themselves for symptoms through Jan. 30. It’s very possible there will be more cases.
The health department only saw one measles case in the state last year compared to 6 already this year. They say it's often introduced into a population after a person has traveled.