After reading a Seattle Times report on Clark County declaring an emergency over measles cases appearing in the Portland area, I dug into my Kaiser Permanente records because I had a recollection of getting tested in the recent past for immunity to measles, mumps, and rubella, probably during the last measles scare.
The high rate of nonmedical exemption for vaccines is what makes the Portland area, which sits across the Columbia River from Clark County, a “hot spot” for outbreaks, according to Peter J. Hotez, a professor of pediatrics and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.
“This is something I’ve predicted for a while now,” he said of the public health emergency in Clark County. “It’s really awful and really tragic and totally preventable.”
In the wake of the emergency declaration in Clark County, a confirmed case popped up in King County, prompting concerns that cases are spreading to the Seattle area, too.
It’s not clear where the man became infected with the disease, although he reported recent travel to Vancouver, where a measles outbreak is occurring, during part of the time he could have been exposed. Some 23 cases of measles have been confirmed in the Vancouver area in recent days, and at least two more are suspected.
The results of my tests for immunity to measles and rubella back in 2015 apparently came back as “equivocal” and whoever my doctor was at the time never raised this with me. I remember seeing results that mentioned measles and rubella but not the mumps and thinking they’d somehow only tested for immunity to the former, but at no point at the time did I see results that said I might not be immune.
(I was born in 1969 and, for whatever reason, I endured the mumps as a child. I’ve no idea why I wasn’t vaccinated for them. I do remember all the oven-heated towels being placed around my swollen neck, and the toy Volkswagon Thing some family friends gave me at the time. My family swears I was vaccinated against measles and rubella, however.)
According to the CDC, persons whose test results for any or mumps, measles, or rubella come back the way mine did “should be considered susceptible”, something you’d think my doctor at the time would have mentioned to me but did not. In the second piece above, Dr. Jeff Duchin, health officer for Public Health Seattle & King County, specifically urged anyone without an immunity to get vaccinated.
Vaccination recommendations for MMR changed in 1989, expanding from one shot early in life to a second one later on. This was two years after I graduated high school, while I was in college. It’s a near-guarantee that I never received that second shot.
My doctor should have recommended in 2015 that I get that second shot, or at least bothered to ask if I’d ever had it. They didn’t.
I’ve already contacted my doctor’s office to ask about all of this, and they suggested either getting tested again or simply getting an MMR shot. Since I never got my second shot to begin with, getting re-tested doesn’t seem necessary. I’ll be going soon to make sure I’m immunized.
Unless you’re part of a population which cannot be vaccinated–populations the rest of us are supposed to help protect via herd immunity–contact your doctor today, especially if you’re here in the Pacific Northwest where we have more than our fair share of anti-vaxxer parents.