NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Government doctors want some adults who have already been vaccinated for measles to get vaccinated again. The country's most recent measles outbreak has reached 17 states and Washington D.C.
One of the largest outbreaks in twenty years continues with more than 150 documented cases since January 1st, 2015. In 2014 the United States reported a record number of 644 cases in 27 states since 2000 when the U.S. declared measles eliminated within it's borders.
Measles is one of the most infectious diseases says Dr. Raoult Ratard, Louisiana State Epidemiologist.
"Measles is very infectious. Right now I cough you could be infected, you could be infected, she could be infected and it could travel," he said.
Ratard says Ebola created a buzz, but measles is much easier to get.
"Measles is not like Ebola where you have to go give it to somebody. You walk down the street somebody coughs measles it can easily be transmitted," he said.
Ratard said with side effects like brain swelling, blindness and death vaccination is a must and that risk doesn't just apply to children.
"The virus does not know about age groups so if you are not immune, if you don't have enough antibodies then you are susceptible and nobody has told the virus to leave the adults alone," Ratard said.
The Centers for Disease Control is asking adults to check their immunity.
"Before 1956 no vaccine almost everybody got infected," Ratard said.
Beginning in 1957 a large number of people may or may not have received an adequate dose.
"These people may have nothing, they may never have been exposed to measles, they may only have one vaccine," Ratard said.
Guidelines call for two. We asked people if they were certain of their measles immunity. The results were mixed.
"Well, No I don't really," Phyllis Hamilton said.
"Yes, I have. My parents saw to that because there were eight of us so they had to make sure because if one gets sick everybody gets sick," Randy Patterson said.
After learning of the new caution from the CDC, Hamilton thinks it's important to make sure she has the proper dosage.
"I wasn't aware of that, but I certainly will follow up on that with my doctor," she added.
Both Hamilton and Patterson are strong vaccine supporters.
"We don't want to be afflicted with something that certainly medical science has worked to help eliminate," Hamilton said.
"They need to worry about it just like they worry about the flu. It's necessary to have that shot," Patterson added.
Ratard says you can have a blood test to check, but it's easier and safe to get a booster. Having more people vaccinated improves protection for the whole community. Ratard says the current measles, mumps and rubella vaccine is 50 years old and administered in a very small dose making it safe. More than 88 percent of all Louisiana citizens are considered adequately vaccinated according to the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals.