Measles Outbreak 2019


The current measles outbreak has so many people appropriately worried. On the brink of elimination from this country twenty years ago, measles has discovered a reservoir among the unvaccinated. This incredibly infectious disease truly threatens the health of millions.
Because this disease has, in recent history, been so uncommon and unfamiliar, many people have questioned the benefit of this vaccine often due to unproven and unverified reasons. Dr. Andrew Wakefield published data in 1998 associating the measles vaccine with autism in the reputable British medical journal The Lancet, which later took the rare action of retracting this paper due to investigational irregularities and alleged fraudulent research.
Measles is extremely contagious, much more than influenza. Exposure from across the room can lead to contagion, which leads fever, runny nose, injected eyes, a rash, pneumonia, encephalitis (a brain infection), and possibly death. This disease was almost eliminated from this country two decades ago, which has led to the lack of awareness of the peril of this incurable infection.
As of April 19, and 626 people have been reported by the CDC to have had measles this year, with outbreaks in New York, California, New Jersey, Michigan, and Washington largely affecting unvaccinated patients. Just three years ago there were only 86 reported cases of measles all year in the US. Prior to attempted universal vaccination in 1963 approximately 500 people died per year and 48,000 were hospitalized due to measles, which led to the universal administration of the measles vaccine.
A single MMR vaccine typically confers immunity in 93% individuals and two doses are approximately 97% effective. Those born prior to 1957 are assumed to have immunity due to their likely exposure in the pre-vaccination era. Immunity may be checked by a simple blood test.
The people who should not receive vaccine include pregnant women, immunosuppressed individuals, those in close contact with immunosuppressed individuals, those that are allergic, some conditions that involve easy bruising, those with active tuberculosis, and those who have received certain vaccines in the past 4 weeks.
If a person has inadequate immunity, they may receive another dose of the vaccine, unless they have some contraindication. Your internist (internal medicine physician), pediatrician, family physician, or other primary care physician may provide more guidance.