WARSAW — Local health officials are advising residents to be safe, rather than sorry when it comes to preparing themselves against measles.
Responding to an announcement this week from the Indiana Department of Health, which issued a standing order to help get Indiana adults vaccinated against the infectious disease, Kosciusko County Health Department Administrator Robert Weaver said there are plenty of options available, including the option for some to do nothing.
“Not every adult will need to have one,” said Weaver. “They may have received a series of vaccinations when they were younger, but some may not be aware of their vaccination status.”
Weaver said that older baby boomers, along with members of the so-call greatest generation may be out of the woods.
“Anyone born before 1957 can be presumed immune and won’t need to be vaccinated,” he said, adding that for individuals who are unsure of their vaccination status, getting a second inoculation poses no danger. “You can’t be over-vaccinated,” he said.
State Health Commissioner Kris Box issued a statewide standing order this week to make it easier for Indiana adults to get vaccinated against the disease.
The state board issued a press release that reported more than 700 people in 22 states have been diagnosed with measles this year, including one person in Indiana.
“You can certainly get one from your family doctor, but you can also go to your local pharmacy,” said Weaver. The state’s order was designed to make it easier for adults to receive the vaccination from pharmacies.
“I would think the easiest thing to do is to go to a pharmacy,” said Weaver. “I would call the pharmacy first.” Weaver added that residents who want to protect themselves from multiple ailments can received an inoculation with a triple purpose.
“There is also a vaccination called an MMR, which is for measles, mumps and rubella,” he said. “One shot covers all three, and mumps has been making a comeback.”
The state’s standing order means that adults do not need to see their healthcare provider for a prescription and can obtain the MMR vaccine from any pharmacy that carries it.
Pharmacies and healthcare providers have been notified about the standing order, the state health department said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the MMR vaccine is safe and 97 percent effective at preventing measles after the second dose. The CDC recommends two doses of MMR vaccine for children, the first at age 12 to 15 months and the second between 4 and 6 years. Many Indiana adults may not be aware of their vaccination status or may have received a single dose of inactive virus, which does not provide the full protection. These individuals are encouraged to ask their healthcare provider about receiving a dose of MMR.
Measles is caused by a virus and spreads through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It can remain in the air for two hours after an infected person leaves an area. The illness typically begins with cold-like symptoms, such as a low fever, cough, runny nose and conjunctivitis, or pink eye. Then a rash of blotchy red spots breaks out starting at the head and spreading to the rest of the body.
Measles can be serious, and there is no treatment or cure. Some children may have very mild symptoms, but others may face more serious complications, including pneumonia and encephalitis.
Nationally, the number of measles cases reported is the highest in the U.S. since 1994. Measles was declared eliminated in the U.S. in 2000, but it is still common in many other countries with lower vaccination rates. The CDC says 9 out of 10 unvaccinated people will contract measles if exposed to the virus.
Anyone born before 1957 is considered immune to measles because almost all individuals born prior to that year likely had measles. All family members should be up-to-date on MMR vaccine, especially before international travel. Healthcare providers can help determine if more vaccine doses are needed before traveling.