Worst measles outbreak in 27 years continues to grow

SSM Health officials say there's a lot of misinformation going around.

Fred Bodimer
June 05, 2019 - 4:17 am

ST. LOUIS (KMOX) — The worst measles outbreak in 27 years continues to grow -- despite repeated pleas for people to get vaccinated. 

Missouri and Illinois are two of the 26 states that have recorded cases of the measles so far this year. 41 new cases nationally last week. 981 total in the United States in 2019.  It is the highest amount since 1992.   

The highly contagious disease was declared eliminated in the United States in 2000.  But that status might be reversed if the number of cases continues to climb over the next several months.

Related: How 'completely avoidable' measles cases continue to climb

Health officials blame misinformation about the vaccine for the recent outbreak.   

"The measles vaccine really comes as a series of vaccines called MMR - the Measles, Mumps and Rubella vaccine," said Dr. Jennifer Wessels, the VP of Medical Affairs for SSM Health and a family medicine physician.   "Typically you get these vaccines as a child.  One when you are twelve months of age, and the second when you are starting kindergarten, usually around the age of five. Now for some young folks who haven't gotten those vaccines or for some adults who have missed those vaccines or were born before a time when they were commonly given, you are more susceptible to measles because you may not be immune to them."

How do you know if you are immune?

"You could evaluate your own medical record," Dr. Wessels tells KMOX.  "Or you could review your immunization record with your doctor, or you can also have a blood test to show if you are immune to measles or not.  If you're not immune, or if you have never been vaccinated, you should talk to your doctor about getting the MMR vaccine."

Some adults, fearing they might get the measles and not sure of their immunity status, are opting to get a booster shot of the MMR vaccine.  But is that harmful?  Can too much of the vaccine be bad?

"We don't really think there's harm in it," said Dr. Wessels.  "You wouldn't necessarily be damaged in any way if you got an additional vaccine, but on the flipside, it may also not be helpful.  So if you are already immune, getting an additional dose may not do you any good." 
And Dr. Wessels says there's absolutely no truth to the claims being put forth by vaccine critics that the measles vaccine can cause autism.​​

© 2019 KMOX (Entercom). All rights reserved.