HOUSTON – Vaccinations are a highly controversial topic. Some parents argue vaccines can lead to autism. Meanwhile, health officials say vaccinations help keep children and their parents safe.
The heightened awareness comes after a woman, three boys and a girl were confirmed to have the measles, health officials in three Houston-area counties announced Monday.
The woman is between 25 and 35 years of age. She and two of the boys, who are under the age of 2, are located in Harris County. The third boy, who is also under the age of 2, is located in Galveston County. A girl, who is also under the age of 2, is located in Montgomery County.
The patients' identities will not be released.
“I never really thought about measles. I had that years ago when I was a kid. I didn't even know that was something you could catch again,” Nikki Caballero said.
Health officials say if you think your child has measles, call your doctor right away. Don’t show up at a hospital unannounced, as the virus could easily spread to others in the waiting room.
"Measles is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by a virus, which spreads to others through coughing and sneezing," said Dr. Umair Shah, executive director of Harris County Public Health. "However, it is easily preventable. Parents and caregivers have the power to protect their children and themselves from this disease by getting vaccinated."
Some parents choose not to vaccinate their children because they believe vaccines are dangerous and cause autism, however the alleged correlation between vaccines and autism has been widely debunked, and has been called out by the advocacy group Autism Speaks, which previously said, "Over the last two decades, extensive research has asked whether there is any link between childhood vaccinations and autism. The results of this research are clear: Vaccines do not cause autism. We urge that all children be fully vaccinated."
“There's a lot of misinformation out there. People make choices and decisions based on misinformation,” Shah said.
The Houston area had several confirmed measles cases last year.
So far, there have been six confirmed cases of measles this year, officials said.
The measles is highly contagious, with nine out of 10 people around the infected subject becoming infected if they are not vaccinated, health officials said.
"Measles has an incubation period of about 10 to 12 days,” Shah said.
Symptoms of measles include high fever, runny nose, cough, red-watery eyes and a sore throat that is followed by a rash three to five days after symptoms begin.
“You can start to really get malaise. Especially, in children, a lot of times it presents as malaise, just not wanting to do stuff,” Shah said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends children get two doses in order to be fully protected:
- The first dose at 12 through 15 months of age
- The second dose at 4 through 6 years of age