This illustration provides a 3D graphical representation of a spherical-shaped, measles virus particle that is studded with glycoprotein tubercles.
This illustration provides a 3D graphical representation of a spherical-shaped, measles virus particle. Credit: CDC / Allison M. Maiuri, MPH, CHES

A second case of measles has been confirmed in Bexar County, and this time, the infected adult is a local resident.

Former San Antonio Metropolitan Health Director Colleen Bridger, who is now an interim assistant city manager, told the Rivard Report on Wednesday that the infected person was exposed to measles after seeking treatment from the same urgent care facility as the adult foreign traveler who brought the virus into the city limits from the Philippines at the beginning of March.

“We contacted [around] 50 people to let them know they were potentially exposed to measles,” Bridger said. “When this person began developing symptoms, they reached out immediately and we were able to do a pre-emptive quarantine to limit the person’s movements and exposure to others before we confirmed it was indeed measles.”

Bridger said she did not know whether the infected person had been vaccinated.

The new case brings the total number of confirmed cases in Texas to at least 13. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have confirmed at least 268 measles cases throughout the United States in 2019.

Bridger said that Metro Health’s standard procedure is to identify the person who is contagious and determine who they were in contact with at least four days before they started showing symptoms.

“We sit down with that person and have them walk us through where they went, who they came into contact with, and if they know how to reach any of those people to see if they are vaccinated and make sure they are aware of the signs and symptoms of measles,” she said.

Measles is a highly contagious respiratory illness spread by contact with an infected person through coughing and sneezing. A hallmark of measles is a rash that begins as flat, red spots on the face and spreads down the neck and torso to the rest of the body. Other symptoms include a high fever over 101 degrees, cough, runny nose and red, watery eyes.

It is so contagious that if someone has it, 90 percent of unvaccinated people who come into contact with that person will become infected.

From Jan. 1 through Feb. 28, the CDC confirmed more than 200 individual cases of measles in 11 states. The last time Bexar County had an officially confirmed case of measles was 2007, when three people were infected.

Bridger said that when it comes to rare and highly contagious viruses, health department workers “are like police detectives.”

“The last thing we want is another person showing up in a waiting room and exposing additional people in the waiting room,” she said. “We work to keep the person isolated, because it takes a couple of days to get [test] results back.”

Roseanna Garza

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