Measles is big news in Boston this week with one confirmed and three more suspected cases in the Back Bay area. Health officials have taken the precaution of holding free measles vaccination clinics for those in the vicinity of St. James Street near the Park Square Building. Should you worry, though, if you weren't in that area?
The truth is, unless you've come in contact with an infected person, there's little reason to be alarmed, says Sagar Nigwekar, an internist at Brigham and Women's Hospital and author of 5 Questions to Ask Your Doctor. "It's not enough to just be in the same building," he adds. "You have to come within a few feet of a person who has measles to catch the virus."
You also probably don't need to worry if you were vaccinated against measles as a child. The combination measles-mumps-rubella vaccine is given twice at ages 12 to 15 months and then again at four to six years of age.
After childhood vaccination, the vast majority of adults will retain their immunity over the rest of their lives, says Nigwekar. And those born before 1957 probably have natural immunity to the virus which was in wide circulation before that time.
If you've never had a measles vaccine, now may be a good time to get one. Pregnant women, though, can't have it since it's a live virus and could be hazardous to the fetus, Nigwekar says.
But even if you were vaccinated as a kid, you may want to get a routine blood test to see whether you still have antibodies to the measles. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all adults ages 19 to 50 get immunized if they've lost their immunity -- and the blood test will tell you if that's the case.
Treatment mainly revolves around symptom management since antivirals haven't been proven to do much against measles, he adds. The main thing is to isolate infected people from others and to watch for signs of more serious conditions like brain and lung infections which occur in about 2 to 3 percent of measles cases and can be life threatening.
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