With the largest measles outbreak in the U.S. in 25 years, health providers will continue to promote the need for keeping up-to-date on vaccinations.
This year through May 17, there have been 880 measles cases reported nationwide, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The viral disease, which was declared eliminated in the U.S. in 2000, has now reappeared in 25 states though not yet this year in North Carolina.
Last year, the state saw three reported cases of measles. In one case an unvaccinated person got sick after returning from a trip overseas, and the respiratory disease spread to other members of that household, according to state public health officials.
“Vaccination with MMR [measles, mumps and rubella] vaccine is the best way to protect against measles,” said Kim Trotman, immunization nurse with the Pender County Health Department. “One dose of measles-containing vaccine administered at age 12 months is approximately 93 percent effective and the effectiveness of two doses of measles-containing vaccine is greater than 97 percent.”
Under state law, children going to school in North Carolina have to have two doses of MMR vaccine separated by at least 28 days between doses.
According to the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, adults born after 1957 who do not have evidence of immunity (either proof of measles vaccination or a titer showing that they are immune to measles) should receive one dose of a measles- containing vaccine, officials said.
“Most people born before 1957 are likely to have been infected naturally and therefore are presumed to be protected against measles, mumps and rubella. Healthcare personnel born before 1957 without laboratory evidence of immunity or disease should consider getting two doses of MMR vaccine,” Pender County health officials said in a news release.
Adults at high risk for exposure and transmission, including health care workers, international travelers and college students, also are advised to have two doses of measles and mumps virus-containing vaccine separated by at least 28 days.
The last large measles outbreak in North Carolina was in 2013 when 23 cases occurred after an unvaccinated traveler returned from India to a community with a low vaccination rate.
In light of the outbreaks, providers are doubling down on their MMR vaccine and booster messaging.
“Measles is a highly contagious, potentially life-threatening infection that is preventable using vaccination,” said 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.”