The current measles outbreak is the largest in the U.S. in 25 years, and is raising questions about protection.

More than 700 cases of measles have been reported in the U.S. since the beginning of 2019, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s the most since 1994, when 963 cases occurred.

Dr. David Priest

“Measles is a highly contagious, potentially life-threatening infection that is preventable using vaccination,” said Dr. David Priest, Novant Health’s Chief Safety and Quality Officer. “We recommend reviewing your immunization history and talking to your doctor about whether you need additional vaccination.”

Among the 700-plus cases reported by the CDC, 71% were in unvaccinated persons, and 98% occurred in U.S. residents. The outbreak has covered 22 states, bringing into the forefront not only the importance of the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine, but specifically the two-dose series, which only became routine after 1989 and is 97% effective.

Priest provided guidelines for adults who may need a MMR vaccination booster:

  • People born before 1957: According to the CDC: “The majority of people born before 1957 are likely to have been infected naturally and therefore are presumed to be protected against measles.”
  • People born between 1958 and 1989 should consider having their immunity determined through a blood test or get the MMR vaccine or booster if they:
    • Have never been vaccinated
    • Received the vaccine in the 1960s when some vaccine used was inactivated (killed). An inactivated (or killed) vaccine consists of virus particles, bacteria, or other pathogens that have been grown in culture and then killed.
    • Received a single MMR vaccine and are at high risk of exposure through travel, especially to outbreak areas, their living arrangements and healthcare workers.
    • Women considering pregnancy whose immunizations status is unknown

The current measles outbreak in the U.S. can be linked to an increase in the unvaccinated population in the U.S. for a variety of reasons, including religious and philosophical.

There has been a fear of vaccines causing autism, thanks to misinformation from the 1980s where a doctor in England said there was a supposed link.

Dr. Jennifer C. Squires
Dr. Jennifer Crutchfield Squires

“It’s been completely disproven,” said Dr. Jennifer Crutchfield Squires, a pediatrician at Novant Health Elizabeth Pediatrics. “The link between

autism and vaccination is based on false science and that doctor’s study has been proven wrong by multiple other studies,” she said.

The CDC recommends all children get two doses of MMR vaccine, starting with the first dose between the ages of 12 and 15 months, and the second dose between 4 and 6 years old. Children can receive the second dose earlier as long as it is at least 28 days after the first dose.

At Novant Health Infectious Disease Specialists, we focus on preventing and treating communicable diseases present across the world and here at home.