DALLAS - A Texas megachurch linked to at least 21 measles cases has been trying to contain the outbreak by hosting vaccination clinics, officials said Monday.
The outbreak started when a person who contracted measles overseas visited Eagle Mountain International Church in Newark, located about 20 miles north of Fort Worth, Texas. Officials with area health departments said those affected by the outbreak range in age from 4-months to 44-years-old. All of the school-aged children with measles were homeschooled, and majority of those who were infected had not been vaccinated.
In a recent sermon posted online, senior pastor Terri Pearsons encouraged those who haven't been vaccinated to do so, adding that the Old Testament is "full of precautionary measures."
"I would encourage you to do that. There's absolutely nothing wrong with doing that. Go do it. Go do it. Go do it. And go in faith," said Pearsons, whose father is televangelist Kenneth Copeland. She added: "If you are somebody and you know that you know that you know that you've got this covered in your household by faith and it crosses your heart of faith then don't go do it."
"The main thing is stay in faith no matter what you do."
In Tarrant County, where the church is located, 11 of the 16 people with measles were not vaccinated while the others may have had at least one measles vaccination but there is official documentation to verify that. In nearby Denton County, none of their five cases had been vaccinated.
Texas Department of State Health Services spokeswoman Christine Mann said that so far across the state there have been 27 cases of the measles this year, with five of those cases having no links to current outbreak. She said it is unclear whether a case recently diagnosed in Harris County, where Houston is located, is tied to the outbreak. There were no cases in the state last year and six the year before.
"If it finds a pocket of people who are unimmunized, and the majority of our cases are unimmunized so far, then if you are around a person with measles, you will get sick," said Russell Jones, chief epidemiologist for Tarrant County Public Health.
Measles is spread by coughing, sneezing and close personal contact with infected people; symptoms include a fever, cough, and a rash on the face. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that children get two doses of the combined vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella, called the MMR. The first does should be when they are 12 to 15 months old and the second when they are 4 to 6 years old.
Vaccination opt-out rates nationwide have been creeping up since the mid-2000s, spurred in part by the belief the battery of vaccinations routinely given to infants could lead to autism despite scientific evidence to the contrary and the debunking of one of the most publicized studies that first fueled vaccine fears years ago.
Pearsons' father is a pioneer of the prosperity gospel, which holds that believers are destined to flourish spiritually, physically and financially - and share the wealth with others. He has built a vast ministry with a worldwide reach. Eagle Mountain International Church is located on the grounds as the Kenneth Copeland Ministries.
Robert Hayes, risk manager with Kenneth Copeland Ministries, said they have held several vaccination clinics since the outbreak. He said that the church has never advised against adults or children getting immunized for measles or seeking medical care.
A statement from the organization said their position regarding any medical condition is to "first seek the wisdom of God, His Word, and appropriate medical attention from a professional that you know and trust."
Hayes did not know why some people had not immunized their children. "Some had for whatever reason chosen not to. Some depending on the age of their child were advised by their physician to wait until the child was a certain number of years old. I don't get a sense for why after that they did not," he said.
He said if people are still choosing to not be immunized and they've been exposed to the measles they are being asked to isolate themselves until it is clear they are not infected.
The incubation period for measles is about two weeks from exposure to fever. People are contagious from four days before getting the rash to four days before breaking out in a measles rash.
Here is the announcement from the church's website:
Public Health Announcement
We are working with the Tarrant County Public Health Department to stand against a recent attack of measles. Eagle Mountain International Church had a visitor attend a service that had been overseas and exposed to measles. Therefore the congregation, staff at Kenneth Copeland Ministries, and the daycare center on property were exposed through that contact. KCM/EMIC is in close contact with Tarrant County Public Health Department and we continue to follow their instructions on how to best deal with this outbreak. The ministry has held free immunization clinics for employees and church members to assist them in obtaining the best medical care for their families. We continue to follow up on pending and confirmed cases to help in any way we can to keep the outbreak contained. We ask that others join with us in prayer over this outbreak, and we believe that God is moving on behalf of each affected family. We know the truth; we are healed according to Isaiah 53:4-5 and I Peter 2:24 and are standing against any plague that would try to attack us as a body. So agree with us that this will stop now according to Matthew 18:19. Please take time to read the information below, and be led by the Lord regarding what He tells you to do for you and your family.
•We were informed by the Tarrant County Public Health Department late afternoon Wednesday, August 14th, that KCM/EMIC has a confirmed case of the measles.
•We have several confirmed cases of the measles with other cases pending.
•We had a free vaccination clinic on property Sunday, August 18, conducted by the TCPH.
•Free vaccination clinics will be on campus Sunday, August 25 from 8:00am-1:00pm, in Study Rooms 1 & 2.
•Dr. Karen Smith has made herself available to the families of EMIC for measles related questions/concerns only. Please contact the Healthy Living Faith Clinic to schedule an appointment: 817-252-3680.
From the Executive Offices of Kenneth Copeland Ministries
Kenneth Copeland Ministries' position regarding dealing with any medical condition involving yourself or someone in your family is to first seek the wisdom of God, His Word, and appropriate medical attention from a professional that you know and trust. Apply wisdom and discernment in carrying out their recommendations for treatment. This would include: vaccinations, immunizations, surgeries, prescriptions, or any other medical procedures.
By faith we are standing on the Word of God. When standing for healing there are natural steps as well as spiritual steps to take. We encourage you to watch two recent services relating to this event, and take both the spiritual and natural steps given:
•Sunday, August 18, 2013 - Public announcement and natural health information
•Wednesday, August 14, 2013 - Special prayer service and spiritual health information
•Download measles information from the Tarrant County Public Health Department.
•Watch Healing School and view healing scriptures - KCM.org offers several resources to help you discover God's plan for your complete health and wellness.