MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Tennessee health officials are confirming two new cases of measles, bringing the state’s total to five.
The U.S. is experiencing the worst measles outbreak since the disease was considered eliminated in 2000. Doctors stress the best line of defense from the highly-contagious disease is a double dose of the MMR vaccine.
It’s been more than 50 years since the introduction of the MMR vaccine, which turned measles from a common childhood experience to a rarity.
Now new cases are being reported to health departments across the country with concerned patients filling doctors’ offices. Their No. 1 question is whether they are immune.
“A lot of people are coming in the age group from the mid-60s on that may have gotten shots, some may not have,” said Dr. Mark Castellaw. “If you have a concern there’s nothing wrong with going ahead and getting a titer drawn.”
A quick blood test will check for past infections and if you are immune to a disease.
Since news spread of the nationwide outbreak, Castellaw has performed dozens of these tests for patients who need peace of mind. Only a few of those patients have needed the measles vaccine.
Check with your insurance provider first because the test is not always covered.
“We need to get our children vaccinated,” said Castellaw. “As adults, you need to know your titer if you have a concern or you’re going to be traveling.”
All five Tennessee measles cases are connected to an east Tennessee resident who traveled abroad to a country with a known outbreak, according to the Tennessee Department of Health.
The CDC has issued travel notices for Americans visiting Israel, Ukraine, Japan, Brazil and the Philippines where they are experiencing measles outbreaks.
The first dose of the MMR vaccine is given to children around their first birthdays, but during outbreaks the Shelby County Health Department says children as young as 6 months old can get the vaccine. That early vaccine does not count toward the two recommended doses.