Following the frightening but not altogether unexpected announcement on Tuesday of a confirmed case of measles in Bais Yaakov in Passaic, community residents across both Passaic and Bergen Counties expressed confusion as all children had been inoculated or had met requirements of immunization. Unlike past cases in the New York and New Jersey areas where the incidence of measles occurred in unvaccinated children, this case appeared to have occurred in a patient who received the vaccine. While teachers at the school in Passaic were screened for immunity, the situation has adults wondering if they themselves are still immune, since many parents have not been vaccinated since childhood. Here’s what you need to know.
What is Measles?
Measles is a highly contagious disease. According to the Health and Human Services, if one infected person has measles, nine out of ten people who come into contact with the individual will get measles. While some cases consist of a few days of a rash and fever, severe cases can lead to brain damage or even death.
The vaccine is highly effective, protecting 97% of patients after the two doses. Over time immunity can decrease though in a time without active cases or outbreaks, the remaining 3% remain protected based on the immunity of the surrounding community, or “herd
Am I Still Immune?
While at this point there are no official guidelines for vaccinated adults, Dr. Jeff Paley, a general practitioner in New York and New Jersey, offered recommendations. Paley explained that concerned individuals can request to have their titer levels checked. A titer is the measure of an antibody level to a specific disease in the body. If titer levels are determined to be below adequate levels, a booster shot is then administered.
Who Should Be Tested?
Paley recommended that titer levels get checked for those who have a higher exposure risk. This includes healthcare workers, people who work in schools and people in high risk communities such as a community with recent a outbreak.
In the case where titer tests are done, the test takes 24 hours until results come back and when the measles booster is given, there is a period of 14 days until immunity takes place.
As always, an open conversation with your trusted healthcare provider is important throughout this process in determining the best course of action.
By Jenny Gans, M.P.H.