This thin-section transmission electron micrograph shows a single virus particle of measles virus. Credit: CDC / Cynthia S. Goldsmith; William Bellini, Ph.D.

Health officials have confirmed a case of measles diagnosed in San Antonio, bringing the statewide total of confirmed cases to 10.

University Health System (UHS) said Wednesday that measles was diagnosed in an adult during an outpatient visit to the hospital last week and confirmed by laboratory tests. The information was turned over to the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District, which reports diagnoses to the state health department.

Dr. Jason Bowling, epidemiologist with UHS, said that local medical providers have been aware of an increased risk for measles in Bexar County “so screenings have had the disease in mind,” and include questions about travel within the United States to areas such as Washington state, where measles outbreaks have occurred, and to Houston, where cases also have been diagnosed.

UHS officials declined to identify which outpatient facility treated the infected adult, citing concerns over patient privacy.

“While we know that person was treated at [University Hospital,] we don’t know if the person resides in Bexar County,” said Sonia Gonzales, public relations manager with Metro Health. “At this time, the case is being handled by the state [health department].”

Once the patient’s residence is confirmed, the Texas Department of State Health Services will confirm the diagnosis and identify any potential places where exposures might have occurred.

Measles is a highly contagious respiratory illness spread by contact with an infected person through coughing and sneezing. Measles is so contagious that if someone has it, 90 percent of the people around that person who is not vaccinated will become infected.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has confirmed more than 200 individual cases of measles in 11 states from Jan. 1 to Feb. 28.

Although the CDC has not declared the Texas cases an outbreak, the state health department reports the 2019 measles diagnoses represent a significant, negative change from 2018 when only nine measles cases were confirmed in the state for the entire year.

“We need to make sure that any of the people that an infected person is in contact with were vaccinated,” said Cherise Rohr-Allegrini, San Antonio program director for The Immunization Partnership, an advocacy organization working to eradicate vaccine-preventable diseases through public policy initiatives

The CDC recommends children get a dose of measles vaccine at 12 to 15 months of age and again at 4 to 6 years old. The measles vaccine is about 97 percent effective after two doses. People over the age of 50 might consider a booster vaccination against measles, since they likely received an early dose of the vaccine.

Rohr-Allegrini said that San Antonio has a fairly high vaccination rate for measles, with 96 percent of children aged 19-35 months being vaccinated. Kids younger than 13 months are too young to be vaccinated, which puts them at high risk for infection, she said.

Of the confirmed measles diagnoses in Texas, five were in children.

“Get vaccinated to prevent the spread of disease. It protects not only yourself, but everyone around,” Rohr-Allegrini said. “Measles spreads extremely easily, and is one of the most infectious diseases we have. While the mortality rate is low comparatively, there are still a lot of consequences that can happen.”

Roseanna Garza

Roseanna Garza

Roseanna Garza reports on health and bioscience for the San Antonio Report.