In Austin, a confirmed case of measles prompted city health officials to issue a statement cautioning anyone who may have been exposed to the infectious virus while visiting a number of restaurants and other retailers located in the North Austin area between December 14 and December 17.
During a press briefing, interim health authority and medical director for Austin Public Health, Dr. Mark Escott, said that the infected individual likely contracted the virus while traveling in Europe.
Though the individual is no longer considered contagious, the case is the first report of measles in Austin in more than 20 years.
“Measles is an acute, highly contagious viral disease. A small number of cases are capable of quickly producing epidemics,” Dr. Escott said of the airborne virus.
In an effort to notify the public, the following timeline was released by city health officials informing people of possible exposures at one or more of the various locations in Travis County during the designated time frame:
- December 14 (evening): Chipotle Mexican Grill located at 6301 W Parmer Lane
- December 14-16: HEB located at 6001 W Parmer Lane
- December 15: Saam Thai located at 6301 W Parmer Lane
- December 15-16: Mandola’s Italian located at 4700 W Guadalupe Street
- December 16 (2:00 pm – 4:00 pm): Target located at 10107 Research Boulevard, Marco’s Pizza located at 11011 Research Boulevard
- December 17 (12:00 pm – 4:00 pm): Austin-Bergstrom International Airport located at 3600 Presidential Boulevard, Gate 29, United Airlines Flight 790 to Chicago
According to city health officials, those who have received two measles/mumps/Rubella (MMR) vaccines have a very low risk of contracting the virus.
Those who have not been vaccinated, however, are at a significantly higher risk of catching the virus if exposed to an infected individual.
“The best way to protect yourself and your family against measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases is by immunization,” Dr. Escott said.
Symptoms of measles usually appear 7 to 14 days after exposure and include fever, cough, runny nose, and watery eyes followed by rash 3 to 5 days later.
Importantly, the airborne virus is also commonly spread by sneezing or coughing.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2019 had the highest number of reported cases since 1992, totaling 1,276 individual cases across 31 states, including Texas.
In addition, a joint study published in May by the University of Texas at Austin and John Hopkins University identified the 25 counties across the nation with the highest risk of experiencing a measles outbreak based on low vaccination rates and large volumes of international travel.
Three of the twenty-five counties (Tarrant, Travis, and Harris) were located in Texas.
Individuals who believe they may have been exposed to the highly contagious virus during the designated time frame and / or develop a fever prior to January 1, 2020 are encouraged to seek medical attention immediately.
Sarah McConnell is a reporter for The Texan. Previously, she worked as a Cyber Security Consultant after serving as a Pathways Intern at the Department of Homeland Security – Citizenship and Immigration Services. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Texas A&M as well as her Master of Public Service and Administration degree from the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M. In her free time, Sarah is an avid runner, jazz enthusiast, and lover of all things culinary.