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That Vaccine You Got as a Kid Might Not Protect You From the Measles

That Vaccine You Got as a Kid Might Not Protect You From the Measles
Jennifer Billock

Unfortunately, we’re still in the throes of a massive measles outbreak in the United States and around the world; if you’re traveling to an area that’s had recent cases of the virus reported, the vaccine you got as a kid may not be sufficient to keep you protected from the highly contagious illness.

Measles is at large around the world, infecting thousands of people every year due to the current outbreak. And for people born in the 70s and 80s, even if you got vaccinated, you may not be completely immune to the illness.

Here’s the problem. If you were born during those two decades, you likely only got one dose of the vaccine. But in 1989, public health officials began to recommend two doses, April Dembosky tells NPR. So if you only got the one dose, you could still catch the highly contagious virus. Someone with measles coughing or sneezing will infect the air in that space for about two hours – and 90 percent of people who don’t have immunity will catch the virus when they walk through it.

So what can you do to make sure you’re safe? First, get a blood test to see if you have immunity. But remember the tests aren’t perfect.

“The blood test is imperfect,” Dr. Art Reingold, an epidemiology professor at the University of California, Berkeley, told NPR. “If you have antibodies, then we’re pretty certain you’re immune. But if you don’t have antibodies you may still be immune, but your antibodies are not detectable by the test.”

The best results will come from looking at your old medical records to make sure you got more than one dose.

“For somebody who knows that they have been vaccinated — who has their history — you would actually be considered immune,” Dr. Lisa Winston, an epidemiologist at San Francisco General Hospital, told NPR, “regardless of what your blood test shows.”

 

[Image: Shutterstock/Design_Cells]

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