Deanna’s Discoveries: When you should get a measles shot

July 12, 2019 09:07 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — The number of people in the U.S. who have gotten the measles this year is now 1,109. That’s the most cases since 1992. And that has real-life implications for vulnerable people, people like News10NBC's Deanna Dewberry who have compromised immune systems.

In this edition of Deanna's Discoveries, she learns that millions of people age 30 to 62 should be checking their childhood vaccination records.

As measles spreads through unvaccinated Americans, two groups who are especially vulnerable. 

The first group includes babies who are about six months to a year old. That's because right after birth, newborns carry their mother's immunity. That wears off by about six months old, and babies can't be vaccinated until they're a year old.

The second group most at risk includes people with compromised immune systems like me. I've had cancer four times and received cell-killing chemotherapy each time.

“If you're already battling with a serious illness, and your immune system might be compromised either from the illness or the treatment, your risk of having a more serious case of measles is increased," said Dr. Paul Graman, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

That means I'm more at risk of developing pneumonia or encephalitis, a life-threatening swelling of the brain. Of those encephalitis cases, about two-thirds will have permanent brain damage, be blind or deaf. 

I don't know my childhood vaccination history, so I wanted to get a measles shot, but I can't.

"You have to wait at least three months after finishing chemotherapy based upon again national published guidelines," said Dr. Alissa Huston, the oncologist treating me at Pluta Cancer Center. But people like me do have another option.

"You can have a blood test that will show whether you are immune to the measles and can answer that question quite definitively," Graman said.

So I had that test. It tells you whether you have antibodies to the measles - antibodies that provide lifetime immunity. 


Deanna Dewberry

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