There is an outbreak of measles in Texas, reports USA Today, and it has been linked to an anti-vaccine megachurch. Much of the church’s community adheres to the belief that vaccines are linked to the high occurrence of autism, and so when a visitor was introduced who had recently taken a trip to a country where measles remain common, the virus spread to nine children and six adults within the church. It has since spread to a total of 25 people in the area.
"This is a classic example of how measles is being reintroduced," said William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert and professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville.
Measles have been eradicated in the Western Hemisphere for decades since the vaccine was first introduced, but before the vaccine, according to the CDC, nearly every child would catch measles by the time they were 15. The virus is airborne, and of every 1,000 people infected, at least one or two would die. In recent years, there have been minor outbreaks in communities that are not vaccinated, but this year, New York City has battled a measles outbreak of at least 58 cases in close-knit Orthodox Jewish communities.
An outbreak in such a densely populated area can be very dangerous and an opportunity for the virus to spread swiftly. Those with the vaccine are in no immediate danger, but given that the vaccine is not distributed to children under the age of one year, parents with babies should be especially aware of the symptoms of measles.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), parents should watch for a fever, runny nose, cough and a widespread rash all over the body. The disease progresses quickly and the rash will be apparent by the second day of infection, the rash spreading to and covering the majority of the body by day 4.
At Eagle Mountain International Church in Newark, Texas, the outbreak was identified on August 14, infecting not only the congregation and staff but the on-site daycare as well. The children who were infected were all homeschooled, given that Texas state law requires all children to be vaccinated before attending public school.
Once the church was notified of the outbreak, they quickly sponsored a vaccination clinic.
Eagle Mountain's pastor Terri Pearsons released a statement explaining why they have chosen to limit vaccinations in their congregation, saying “The concerns we have had are primarily with very young children who have family history of autism and with bundling too many immunizations at one time."
In response, Schaffner notes that young children are the most susceptible to measles, and so they are the ones who should be allowed to be vaccinated. He said, "This is a sadly misinformed religious leader.”