It’s been a tough day. Your presentation went well. Now you realize how exhausted you are as you melt into a seat at the airport pub and order a chicken sandwich. As usual, you begin to tap away at your phone catching up on emails. You just want to get on the flight and get home to your family when something catches your eye on your phone: A warning about a measles outbreak affecting all travelers at the airport.
Really? Do you need to worry about measles whenever you walk through a public space?
Yup, measles is the most contagious virus on the planet.
You can catch it just by walking through a place where someone with measles was, two hours ago.You don’t even need face-to-face contact with an infected person. Yikes.
But you only need to be concerned if your measles vaccine is not up to date. If you are properly immunized, relax you’re covered.
What’s the big deal about measles anyway?
Measles is rather nasty disease. That is why the vaccine was developed in the first place. Not only are you miserable, fevered, and have a pronounced rash, but 1 in 1000 people with measles go on to have a terrible brain infection and die.
That’s right, die, despite excellent medical care.
Collectively we have just forgotten how awful the disease is since we haven’t had a large-scale outbreak in the USA, until recently.
How did this happen?
In the late1990s a doctor in England faked medical data and abused developmentally challenged children for his own personal gain. He claimed that autism was related to the MMR vaccine. This has been rebuked by well-designed scientific investigation, but still he created doubt in the public’s mind.
This [false] doubt led to people being afraid to immunize their children. Which then led to a significant number of unimmunized people in Europe and the USA. This then led to the natural consequence of ongoing outbreaks in France, Spain, Wales and now the USA.
So now you, the busy business traveler, are exposed to hundreds of people when you travel, including those who might be infectious with measles. And you have no way of knowing who can make you sick.
Do you need a measles vaccine?
People without prior measles infection or 2 doses of vaccine need to get immunized. Now.
How can you protect yourself from measles?
The only way to protect yourself from this viral illness is vaccination. There are no medications to treat or prevent measles.
The first dose of MMR provides protection for 95% of people, and the second dose of vaccine provides protection for the remaining few. It takes two doses to provide reliable protection.
Who needs a measles vaccines?
- Anyone born after 1957 who has never been vaccinated. There’s no time like the present to get caught up. You will need 2 doses of MMR at least 28 days apart.
- Anyone who has received only 1 dose of MMR. If you graduated high school before 1990 you may not have received both doses of measles vaccine. Many adults in the USA are under-immunized because they received only 1 dose of measles vaccine as a child.
- Anyone born between 1958 and 1967 . The original measles vaccine, which began in 1963 was different from the current MMR. It does not provide the right kind of protection. This is why we switched to the current 2-dose MMR vaccine.
- Anyone who is not sure of his or her vaccine status. If you aren’t sure you have received both doses, go ahead and get protected. It is not harmful to get a third dose of MMR vaccine, but it could be very harmful to miss the second dose of vaccine.
- Anyone 6 months or older planning to travel outside the USA who hasn’t received MMR vaccine.
Who shouldn’t get a measles vaccine?
- Anyone born on or before 1957 is presumed to have measles immunity since all children in the USA got this infection. So there is no need to get vaccinated, you are already immune.
- Anyone who has a problem with their immune system should check with their doctor. In some cases, you should not get the vaccine. If you can’t get the vaccine, be sure those around you do to protect you.
- If someone in your household has an immune problem have them check with their doctor before getting your vaccine, just to be sure it is OK.
- Surprisingly, most people with egg allergies can get the vaccine. If you have an allergy to eggs check with your doctor to see if you can get the MMR vaccine.
- Anyone who is pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant in the next 28 days. Wait to get vaccinated after you deliver your baby
- Anyone with a life-threatening allergy to neomycin.
A full list of do’s and don’ts and other information about measles vaccines is listed here.
For those with busy schedules, many pharmacies offer vaccines at convenient walk-in hours.
These are general guidelines. Always check with your own doctor to see if MMR vaccine is right for you.
Can I get a blood test to check on my vaccine status?
Yes a blood test is available to check for immunity. It is expensive and usually not covered by healthcare insurance. It’s primarily used for healthcare workers as part of pre-employment screening.
It’s actually easier and less expensive to get the measles vaccine. There is no harm in getting the vaccine if you are immune but didn’t know it. I mention the blood test for completeness, but it’s rarely used due to expense.
If you travel a lot, you will be exposed to measles since a significant numbers of people in Europe, Asia, UK and USA are not properly immunized.
Get yourself protected.
IF you don’t know your immunization status and were born after 1957 get a second dose of MMR. It’ll make you feel calmer, so that you can focus on your business and your life without worrying about outbreaks
Isn’t that what your really want anyway?