A Texas megachurch known for preaching against the use of vaccines has been hit by an outbreak of measles, a highly contagious virus for which there is no known cure. Measles can be prevented by vaccination.
So far, at least 16 people have contracted measles, all of whom are connected to Eagle Mountain International Church in Newark, Texas. Per USA Today, the church's senior pastor, Terri Pearsons, has been critical of measles vaccinations in the past.
Those infected include nine children and seven adults; 11 of these have never been immunized against measles. At least one patient may have been vaccinated, but the Tarrant County Public Health Department said no documentation exists to verify that.
According to a statement by the church, a visitor who had been overseas is believed to have introduced the virus, thereby infecting members of the congregation, church staffers and -- perhaps most troubling -- a daycare located on the property.
Pearsons sought to clarify her position on vaccines in an Aug. 15 release, stating, "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."
Measles is considered the deadliest childhood illness that causes rash and fever. For every 1,000 children that contract measles, one or two will die.
The church has responded by offering free vaccinations, seeking to bolster the spiritual guidance given in an Aug. 14th sermon by Pearsons, titled "Taking Our Stand of Faith Over Measles," where she muses:
Why did the Jewish people, why did they not die out during the plague? Because the Bible told them how to be clean, told them how to disinfect, told them there was something contagious. And the interesting thing of it, it wasn't a medical doctor per se who took care of those things, it was the priesthood. It was the ministers, it was those who knew how to take the promises of God as well as the commandments of God to take care of things like disinfection and so forth.
Many of the things that we have in medical practice now actually are things you can trace back into scripture. It's when we find out what's in the scripture that we have wisdom.
Pearsons also stated, "There's a knee-jerk reaction to things like this, because that's the health department, the [Centers for Disease Control], that's their job is to make everyone concerned about it." She also referred to fighting the illness as "spiritual warfare."
According to the Dallas Morning News, Texas had no reported cases of measles in 2012 and six cases in 2011.