What's behind increase of measles? Health official weighs in

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HOUSTON – Three confirmed measles cases in Harris County, one in Galveston County and another in Montgomery County have public health officials urging parents to have their children vaccinated.

"People that are actually infected with measles, one in four will get hospitalized and one in 1,000 may die," said Dana Beckham, director of Harris County Public Health. "It's a very serious disease that can be prevented by vaccination." 

Beckham said new cases of measles are becoming more common than before, saying the last time they had a confirmed case was last year.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Texas is one of a handful of states with confirmed cases of measles already reported in 2019.

Texas allowing parents the choice whether to vaccinate their children does have an impact, Beckham said.

“You are having an increase of people that haven’t been immunized, that haven't developed antibodies, when people are coming from different countries that don't have that vaccine protocol and they are infected -- people come in and out all the time,” Beckham said.

In 2017, Texas Health and Human Services released its report of student vaccinations, showing overall Texas schools reported high rates of coverage for each vaccine but kindergarten students reported slightly lower coverage due to personal beliefs.

Private and public schools, including day cares, are required by law to keep records of their students' vaccinations and those who choose to opt out of the shots.

“Before the measles vaccine, we had an increase in measles, and then, when the measles vaccine was created, it started getting more and more people vaccinated," Beckham said. "(That is when) measles incidents decreased drastically. Now, we are seeing people opting out of getting immunized (and) we are seeing a resurgence."