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A MEASLE-Y EFFORT?

By Katherine Dinsdale |

HEALTH How was it that Fort Worth fared so much better-19 times better, in fact-than Dallas in the recent measles epidemic? By the end of March Dallas had confirmed more than 1,500 cases, including three deaths. Fort Worth counted fewer than 80 measles victims.

Well, some infectious disease specialists in both cities say Fort Worth just lucked out. DR. GWENDOLYN BROBBEY, assistant director for clinical services in Fort Worth, says the Dallas cases last winter gave Fort Worth a head start on increasing immunization efforts. “We all have limited personnel and the disease spreads so quickly.” she says. “It’s my opinion that Dallas should be commended for not having a worse epidemic.”

But critics in Dallas, most vocally County Commissioner JOHN WILEY PRICE, say Dallas County health officials have been “lethargic,” and that Dallas should have learned from the example of Houston’s 1988-’89 measles outbreak and stepped up immunization efforts before the virus struck home.

DR. CHARLES HALEY, Dallas County epidemiologist, says it’s too easy to just lambaste public services. “There are two sides to the responsibility.” he says. “Parents have to want to bring their children in. One of the children who recently died of measles lived six blocks from an immunization center. That shouldn’t have happened.”

The director of the Dallas County Health Department, DR. GORDON GREEN, says the immunization problem is mainly among “the economically and socially disadvantaged, people who are busy with the nuts and bolts of basic survival. They have never been able to put a high priority on preventive medicine.”

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