WPS Health Insurance Blog

CDC offers guidance about the risk of measles for adults

Posted by Tom Enwright

Feb 10, 2015 1:12:00 PM

sad sick kidMeasles has been a topic in the news lately as several outbreaks have been reported in the United States this winter. Much of the attention centers on whether parents are getting lax about getting their children vaccinated. However, some adults are wondering whether they are at risk of getting the disease.

Most U.S. measles cases in recent years stem form contact with someone who has been abroad, since the disease is still common in many countries, according to an Associated Press story on Feb. 6.

Primary care physicians can evaluate each individual’s situation.

“For adults out there, if you’re not sure if you have had the measles vaccine or not, or if you have ever had measles, we urge you to contact your doctor or nurse and get vaccinated,” Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said during a Jan. 29 media briefing at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Here are excerpts from a document published by the CDC. “Measles—Q&A about Disease & Vaccine” can be found at: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/measles/faqs-dis-vac-risks.htm

What is measles?

Measles is an infectious viral disease that occurs most often in the late winter and spring. It begins with a fever that lasts for a couple days, followed by a cough, runny nose, and conjunctivitis (pink eye). A rash starts on the face and upper neck, spreads down the back and trunk, then extends to the arms and hands, as well as the legs and feet. After about five days, the rash fades in the same order in which it appeared.

How can I catch the measles?

Measles is highly contagious. Infected people are usually contagious from about four days before their rash starts to four days afterwards. The measles virus resides in the mucus in the nose and throat of infected people. When they sneeze or cough, droplets spray into the air and the droplets remain active and contagious on infected surfaces for up to two hours.

What kind of vaccine is given to prevent measles?

The MMR vaccine prevents measles and two other viral diseases—mumps and rubella. These three vaccines are safe given together. MMR is an attenuated (weakened) live virus vaccine. This means that after injection, the virus grows and causes a harmless infection in the vaccinated person with very few, if any, symptoms. The person’s immune system fights the infection caused by the weakened viruses and immunity develops, which lasts throughout the person’s life.

How effective is the MMR vaccine?

More than 95% of the people who receive a single dose of MMR will develop immunity to all three viruses. A second does gives immunity to almost all of those who did not respond to the first dose.

As an adult, do I need the MMR vaccine?

You do not need the MMR vaccine if you:

  • Had blood tests that show you are immune to measles, mumps, and rubella
  • Are someone born before 1957
  • Already had two dose of MMR or one does of MMR plus a second dose of measles vaccine
  • Already had one dose of MMR and are not at high risk of measles exposure

You should get the measles vaccine if you are not among the categories listed above, and:

  • Are a college student, trade school student, or other student beyond high school
  • Work in a hospital or other medical facility
  • Travel internationally, or are a passenger on a cruise ship
  • Are a woman of childbearing age

Do people who received MMR in the 1960s need to have their dose repeated?

 Not necessarily. People who have documentation of receiving LIVE measles vaccine in the 1960s do not need to be revaccinated. People who were vaccinated prior to 1968 with either inactivated (killed) measles vaccine or measles vaccine of unknown type should be revaccinated with at least one dose of live attenuated measles vaccine. This recommendation is intended to protect those who may have received killed measles vaccine, which was available in 1963-1967 and was not effective.

Why are people born before 1957 exempt from receiving the MMR vaccine?

People born before 1957 lived through several years of epidemic measles before the first measles vaccine was licensed. As a result, these people are very likely to have had the measles disease. Surveys suggest that 95% to 98% of those born before 1957 are immune to measles. Note: The “1957 rule” applies only to measles and mumps; it does not apply to rubella.

Topics: Wellness, Individuals & Families