A Texas church recently underwent a "massive disinfecting" after discovering a concerning measles outbreak was tied to a visitor who was known to "give people big bear hugs."
As of Wednesday evening, 15 cases have been reported in Tarrant County with all but one linked to the 1,500-member Eagle Mountain International Church, according to the Tarrant County Public Health Department. The infectious disease, which can be spread through coughing, sneezing and contact, was traced to a visitor who, the Star-Telegram reported, knew several people at the church's service and had recently returned from an international mission trip.
Worshipers at a July 4 service at Eagle Mountain International Church, which has recently been associated with a measles outbreak. (Photo: Eagle Mountain Church/Facebook)
The man who spread the measles in the church alerted authorities when he was diagnosed, according to Robert Hayes, the risk manager for Kenneth Copeland Ministries, which oversees the church.
Hayes told the Star-Telegram the man "hugged several people, which was his normal practice — to give people big bear hugs." The man was not a member of the church.
Watch KTVT-TV's report about the outbreak:
Last week, church minister Terri Pearsons devoted a sermon to the measles outbreak titled "Taking Our Stand of Faith Over Measles":
“There’s a knee-jerk response to things like this, because that’s the health department and CDC’s (Centers for Disease Control) job, to make everyone concerned and aware about it. But I want to remind people my age, remind anyone born before 1957, that we all had measles,” said Pearsons in the sermon posted on the church’s Internet site.
“So we don’t think these things flippantly. We take them seriously. But we keep them in perspective. What I’m telling you, it’s not going to wipe out everyone,” she said.
“We have to remember this is spiritual warfare, this is spiritual warfare. And the devil would love to take advantage of a hangnail. If he could take a hangnail and work on it until you had pneumonia and died, he would do his best to get it done,” Pearsons said.
She also told the congregation that there would be a “massive disinfecting,” of the entire church.
“There’s going to be a massive cleanup. Our team will be pleading the blood of Jesus and disinfecting because the blood cleanses us of all unrighteousness. And I have news for you, the measles are unrighteous,” she said.
The outbreak was first spotted by church-member Karen Smith, who is a physician, according to the Dallas Morning News. The doctor saw a rash, which she described as "kind of like pimples," on her son. His blood test came back positive for the disease.
Measles causes a rash like this all over an infected person's body. (Photo: Shutterstock.com)
Of those who have been infected at the church with ages ranging from four months to 44 years old, eight have recovered completely so far, chief epidemiologist with the county's health department, Russell Jones, told the Star-Telegram.
In addition to the recent cases in Tarrant County, Dallas and Denton counties each reported two measles cases, while Harris County has one.
The Texas Department of State Health Services is urging immunization against the highly contagious illness. Eleven of the 15 people infected in Tarrant County were not immunized for the disease.
Since the minister's sermon about the measles outbreak, which encouraged measles immunizations, Smith said people are not panicking but about 200 have been immunized since Sunday. The minister also addressed those who choose not to be immunized, saying they can stand on their faith. Health officials though have warned against avoiding immunizations as the disease is contagious.
A nurse uses a syringe to prepare an injection of the combined Measles Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccination. (Photo: GEOFF CADDICK/AFP/Getty Images)
Agency officials said Texas had six reported cases of measles in 2011.
Eagle Mountain International Church has been completely cleaned and is not open and operational.
Here's another report from KTVT about some of the latest reported cases as the disease has spread: