What Seniors Need to Know about Measles

Courtesy Center for Disease Control    This infographic helps convey how quickly measles can spread to the unprotected.

The recent rise in measles outbreaks is making some seniors wonder if they were actually vaccinated for the measles virus or if they need to get their measles, mumps and rubeola (MMR) vaccine refreshed. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults 63 and older (those born before 1957) are presumably considered immune to the disease. They were likely infected naturally before the vaccine was invented, providing lifelong immunity. Most older adults born in or after 1957 received two doses of the MMR vaccine, and do not need to be re-vaccinated.

Still, there are certain subsets of older adults who may still be at risk. Anyone who received an early version of the measles vaccine, available only in the mid-1960s, may not have developed immunity, because this vaccine was ineffective. In addition, older adults born outside the U.S. may not have been exposed to measles and therefore may not have immunity to the virus.

“If you’re an older adult and concerned about your vaccination status, especially if you live in or are planning to travel to a high-risk area, it’s important to talk to your doctor,” said Dr. Anita Gaind of Calyx Health. “Your physician may ask for a blood test to look for the presence of antibodies that fight measles. If you find you are not immune, it’s not too late to get vaccinated.”

MMR vaccinations pose minimal risks for older adults and are covered by most insurance plans, including Medicare and Medicare Advantage. 

Measles, also called rubeola, is a highly contagious illness caused by a virus. The symptoms of measles generally appear about seven-fourteen days after a person is infected and include high fever, cough, runny nose and watery, red eyes. After a few days, a rash develops and lasts up to a week. Then it usually gets better by itself. 

However, for older adults who suffer from one or more chronic conditions, contracting the measles can pose a high risk of serious complications.

There have been no measles cases in Alameda County residents during the current nationwide outbreak. While many seniors may worry about measles for their grandchildren, most older adults need not be too concerned for themselves.

 

Calyx Health, a doctor’s office exclusively for Medicare seniors, is located above Trader Joe’s in the Alameda South Shore. To schedule an appointment, call 402-1471 or visit www.calyxhealth.com.