• SeniorNews

Measles Outbreak and Older Adults

Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is reporting 1,001 cases of measles in the United States thus far in 2019. This is the greatest number of cases reported in the U.S. since 1994, when 958 cases were reported for the entire year. When hearing of the measles outbreak, much focus is on unvaccinated children; most older adults would not consider themselves at risk of an infection because they already had measles as a child or have been vaccinated themselves.

According to the CDC, adults age 63 and older (those born before 1957) are considered immune to the disease presumptively because they were likely infected naturally before the vaccine was invented, which provides lifelong immunity. Most older adults born in or after 1957 received two doses of the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine, and do not need to be re-vaccinated.

However, anyone who received an inactivated or killed version of the measles vaccine (which was available only in the mid-1960s), may not have developed immunity because this vaccine was ineffective. Also, older adults born outside of the U.S. may not have been exposed to measles and therefore may not have immunity to the virus. If you are unsure about your vaccination status, you can ask for a blood test from your doctor. It’s never too late to get vaccinated. One dose of the current MMR vaccine is 93 percent effective at stopping the virus; two doses is 97 percent effective.

Checking your vaccination status is especially important if you plan on traveling abroad or to a state with reported cases of measles. Currently, these states include Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas, Tennessee and Washington. If you do get a blood test to check your measles immunity, it is important to know that Medicare will not pay for this test. For coverage information regarding the MMR vaccine, check with your Medicare Part D plan.

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Article reprinted with permission of Greater Wisconsin Agency on Aging Resources

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