Measles was an illness that the United States believed that it had largely eradicated. With the rise of the anti-vaccination movement, there have been repeated outbreaks against multiple states. This week, we explore the reemergence of measles and why some adults should consider re-vaccinating.
What Is Measles?
Measles is a viral disease that most heavily impacts children. It is an air-borne pathogen that spreads when an infected person sneezes and/or coughs. The first symptoms are cold-like. The patient usually starts coughing, followed by a runny nose, red eyes, and fevers. The trademark symptom for measles however, is a rash of tiny red spots that starts on the head and eventually covers the rest of the body.
Without vaccines, measles spreads rapidly and impacted as many as 4 million people a year, with about 50,000 hospitalized. Every year, 400 to 500 people died from measles. As with many illnesses, the deaths were disproportionately children and older adults.
The Measles Vaccine
For the measles vaccines, there are two options. The most common choice is the MMR vaccine, which protects people against measles, mumps, and rubella. There is a second vaccine called the MMRV, which adds in protection against the flu. However, this vaccine is only for children from 1 year old to 12 years old.
The CDC recommends that kids get two doses of the vaccine to increase the effectiveness. Children get their first dose between 12 and 15, and the second one from 4 to 6 years.
The measles vaccine was introduced in the 1960s. It reduced the number of measles cases in the United States by 99%. Unfortunately, while the vaccine is widespread in the United States, that is not the case in every country. With the growing movement against vaccination, the low rate of vaccination in other countries is impacting Americans.
Measles was nearly eradicated in the United States, however, in recent years, there has been a growing movement against vaccination. When unvaccinated people travel, it opens them up to infection. If an unvaccinated American citizen gets measles while they’re abroad, they can cause an outbreak when they’re back stateside.
The original vaccine was introduced in 1963. In 1967, the form of the vaccine that is still used today became the standard. The modern vaccine is highly effective. However, there was a version of the vaccine in use from 1963 to 1967 that essentially does nothing against measles.
Due to this, there are at-risk adults who should discuss revaccination with their physician. This group includes those vaccinated with the ineffective shot, and those unsure of which vaccine they received 1963 to 1967. Adults who have never been vaccinated are also at risk. The CDC suggests that these individuals receive at least one dose of the shot.
Protecting yourself against measles is especially important for adults who live near outbreak centers. Other at-risk areas include cities that are big port cities, or with international airports.
Ultimately, your best option is to discuss vaccination or revaccination with your physician. They can conduct blood tests to see what your immunity level is. Physicians will also be more knowledgeable about the risk of outbreaks.