As measles returns, USA states look to cut vaccine exemptions

Grant Boone
May 5, 2019

Adults in the United States who were vaccinated against measles decades ago may also need a new dose of the vaccine depending on when they received the shot and whether they live in an outbreak zone or plan to travel to one, according to public health experts battling the outbreak. "We've been able to vaccinate them on the spot", Tammy Petrey with Mills Pharmacy said.

Measles is a highly contagious respiratory illness that can spread be quickly through the air.

All 50 states require children to be vaccinated for various diseases in order to attend public schools, unless they have medical reasons for exemption.

Measles can come with symptoms that include fever, a rash which normally starts behind the ear, diarrhea, infection, pneumonia (which usually causes death in children under five who are infected), and brain swelling which can occur right away or years later. Washington is poised to pass a bill that would remove exemptions on personal grounds for the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, while leaving in place a religious exemption.

People are contagious from four days before the rash develops until four days after.

County health officials say these cases are not linked to the ongoing measles outbreak in the USA or to the measles case reported earlier in the week in a county resident.

Those at higher risk - whom the agency advises to get two doses for good measure - might work in health care, travel internationally or be more likely to be affected by an outbreak.

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"I think you have to have a much greater debate about it to make sure that if it was introduced there wasn't an uproar", he said.

"I think we need to have a proper debate so, if it happens, people know why it is happening and are going to accept it rather than it just being imposed without that debate". The fourth family member is an adult county resident who is unvaccinated.

Measles, or rubeola, is a notifiable disease in Alabama. It can be serious in young children, the CDC reported.

Health officials say they have not identified any public exposure locations associated with the new case.

"When Jenny McCarthy [TV actress and the prominent face of the anti-vaxx movement] gets on TV and says 'I'll take the measles every time, ' that tells you something important", says Offit. This has led to pockets of lower-than-normal vaccination rates in some communities.

Such was the case with more than 1,000 students at two California universities last month as officials raced to contain a potential measles outbreak.

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