AUSTIN, Texas (FOX 7 Austin) - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting more than 700 people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with the measles so far this year. That's the highest number of cases reported since the virus was declared eliminated in 2000.
Now, the CDC is warning adults born between 1957 and 1989 they may need another dose of the vaccine. “Currently the recommendation is anybody born 1957 or before is considered to have had the disease or been exposed to it at some point and time in the past, so they are considered to be immune,” said Dr. Jay Zdunek, chief medical officer for Austin Regional Clinic.
Following that year, the first versions of the vaccine used a killed virus, which is still not seen as effective as today’s version.
“There's a question as to whether it had lifelong immunity,” Zdunek said.
That version was eventually replaced by a weakened virus, but, until 1989, children usually only got one dose instead of the two dose vaccine used today. “The CDC does recommend that, in cases where there may be a chance of exposure or a question of a patient's immunity status that, they should probably have a test done to verify immunity,” said Zdunek.
Zdunek said a blood test can check for that, but it's often not covered by insurance and can cost more than $100. Whereas getting a second dose of the vaccine is typically about half that price. “So, if there's really any question as to whether or not there's immunity, there's really no harm in getting a second vaccination done,” Zdunek said.
With 22 states currently reporting measles cases, more patients are asking doctors at the clinic whether they are protected. “We've had people coming in on a daily basis asking and we've actually been looking at the literature trying to determine what's the best course of action here. It's just not been very clear in terms of the guidance,” said Zdunek.
Austin medical providers encourage parents to vaccinate children against the measles as outbreaks continue around the country. “Measles carries a very high morbidity associated with it. There's about 10 percent of the cases develop encephalitis or pneumonia, which is a very significant percentage,” Zdunek said.
In fact, Austin Regional Clinic no longer accepts unvaccinated children because measles is known as one of the most contagious diseases. “We believe that we need to protect our entire population from those who are most vulnerable, the young ones who have not been able to be vaccinated yet,” said Zdunek.
Measles spreads through droplets in the air, which can linger for up to two hours after someone with the virus coughs or sneezes. The two-dose vaccine is considered 97 percent effective.