Measles Threat Moves Closer to Home

In light of recent news about the resurgence of measles, Buzz contributor Dan Kegel got his MMR vaccine updated recently at a local drug store.

As the number of measles cases and locations where people may have been exposed to the virus continues to rise both across the nation and in Los Angeles, word came yesterday that the latest major exposure area is in and around The Grove and the Original Farmer’s Market near Third St. and Fairfax Ave., on April 27 and 28.

According to a notice from the LA County Health Department:

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (Public Health) is investigating an additional confirmed case of measles in a Los Angeles County resident and an additional non-resident measles case that traveled throughout Southern California….

Persons who may have been on-site at the date and time for any of the below locations may be at risk of developing measles for up to 21 days after being exposed.

The following locations have been currently identified as potential measles exposures:

4/30/2019, Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), Terminal 2, 7:45 p.m. to 11:45 p.m.
5/1/2019, LAX, Terminal 2, 7:10 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.
4/30/2019 and 5/1/2019, LAX Employee Shuttle, 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. on 4-30 and 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on 5-1
4/27/2019 and 4/28/2019, Farmer’s Daughter Hotel, 115 S Fairfax Ave, 90036, All day on 4-27 through 10:00 a.m. on 4-28
4/27/2019, Peet’s Coffee, (3rd & Fairfax), 175 S Fairfax Ave Unit D, Los Angeles, CA 90036, 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
4/27/2019, Fratelli’s Café, 7200 Melrose Ave, 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
4/27/2019, TART Restaurant, (located in Farmer’s Daughter Hotel) 115 S Fairfax Ave, 5:00 p.m. -8:00 p.m.
4/27/2019, The Grove, 189 The Grove Dr, 2:00 p.m.-5:30 p.m.
4/27/2019, J.Crew and Barnes and Noble (located at The Grove), 3:30 p.m.- 5:30 p.m.
4/27/2019, Los Angeles Farmer’s Market, 6333 W 3rd St, 3:30 p.m.- 5:30 p.m.
4/27/2019, Paper Source (3rd & Fairfax, Los Angeles), 175 S Fairfax Ave., 4:00 p.m.-6:00 p.m.
4/27/2019, Whole Food’s (Fairfax), 6350 W 3rd St, 8:00 p.m.-11:00 p.m.
4/27/2019, La Brea Tarpits, 5801 Wilshire Blvd, 7:00 p.m.-9:30 p.m.

The announcement goes on to say:

“It is very important if you or someone you know has symptoms of measles or has been exposed to measles to contact your healthcare provider by phone right away before going in,” said Muntu Davis, MD, MPH, Los Angeles County Health Officer. “We will likely see additional measles cases in Los Angeles County, so if you are not already immune to measles, the best way to protect yourself and to prevent the spread of measles is to get the measles immunization, with two doses of measles immunization being about 97% effective at preventing measles.”

Also:

Measles immunizations are available at healthcare providers, local pharmacies or health clinics. Public Health clinics offer no or low-cost immunizations for individuals who are uninsured or underinsured. To find a nearby Public Health clinic, call 2-1-1 or visit publichealth.lacounty.gov/chs/phcenters.htm.

For more information about measles, visit: public health.lacounty.gov/media/measles or call 2-1-1.

Why All the Fuss?

For some additional information about measles, we also checked in today with Dr. Neville Anderson, of Larchmont Pediatrics, who stressed that “measles is one of the most highly contagious viruses”…which is why it’s so important to make sure both children and adults are vaccinated.  Anderson quoted several statistics from the Centers for Disease Control, including:

  • If an there’s a person infected with measles in a room, 90% of non-immunized people in the room will become infected.
  • The measles virus can linger in the air up to two hours after an infected person was there.
  • One in four people who contract measles will be hospitalized.
  • One in 10 children who contract measles will get ear infections, which can lead to permanent hearing loss at a greater rate than ear infections caused by other illnesses.
  • One in 1,000 people who contract measles will have swelling of the brain.
  • One in 1,000 people who contract measles will die.

But the situation doesn’t have to be so scary. “The best way to protect against measles is with a vaccine,” Anderson said, and the measles vaccine is 97% effective if you’ve had the recommended two doses.  Also, making sure you and your family members are vaccinated helps our larger community.  When 93-95% of the population is properly vaccinated, it creates “herd immunity,” a critical mass of immune people that slows or stops the spread of the virus and helps protect those whose immunity is compromised and/or those who cannot be vaccinated for other reasons (such as young infants).

Additional Note About Adult Immunity

Finally, while most publicity about the resurgence of measles focuses (understandably) on the importance of vaccinating children, it’s worth noting that some adults may need vaccinating (or re-vaccinating), too.

According to an article in the Healthline newsletter, most people born before 1957 either had measles or were exposed to the virus, creating a lifelong immunity to further infection.  For those born later, however, the situation differs. Measles vaccines were introduced in 1963, but there were two versions of the first vaccines – live and killed – and it turned out that the immunity from the killed version faded over time.  The killed vaccine was discontinued in 1967, so those vaccinated after that date had more reliable protection.  Also, in 1989, the CDC began recommending that everyone receive a second dose of the measles vaccine, so anyone properly vaccinated since that date should be protected for life.

But that leaves a gray area for adults born between 1957 and 1967, especially those who never had measles, those who were originally vaccinated between 1963 and 1967, and those who may have been vaccinated before 1989 but received only one shot instead of two.

So if you were originally vaccinated in the early to mid-1960s, and do not know which version of the vaccine you received – or if you’re not sure you received a second vaccination before 1989 – you can talk to your doctor, who can check your immunity levels…or you can just go ahead and get a new measles shot – which is quick and easy, very low-risk, and likely covered by many insurance plans. 

As noted above, measles vaccines are readily available at public health clinics, and also at local pharmacies like Rite Aid, CVS, Walgreens, and even those in Ralphs grocery stores.  At most of them, you can just walk right in without an appointment…and walk out, newly vaccinated, in less than five or ten minutes.  (Though it might be worth a phone call beforehand, just to make sure they have the MMR vaccine in stock on that particular day.)

Finally…an author’s postscript:  Since my husband and I were both originally vaccinated during that 1963-67 gray area, and are pretty sure we were never received a second measles shot later, he scheduled a special date night for us a couple of weeks ago – a quick trip to Rite Aid for our MMR shots (I also got a TDaP booster while we were there), and then a nice celebratory dinner afterward.  It took just a few minutes, cost about $139 each for the MMR shots (the TDaP was free with my insurance), and now we know we’re protected.  Peace of mind: priceless. (Note: Some insurance plans will cover the cost of re-vaccination if you’ve had your immunity levels checked and get a recommendation from a doctor. That process can cost as much or more than the shot, however, so we skipped that step and just got the vaccinations.)

[This article was updated after its initial publication to add the information from Dr. Neville Anderson…and to correct information about the price of the MMR vaccine.]

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About Elizabeth Fuller

Elizabeth Fuller was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN but has lived in LA since 1991 - first in the Sycamore Square neighborhood, and since 2012 in West Adams Heights/Sugar Hill. She was long-time board member of the Sycamore Square Neighborhood Association, currently serves on the board of the West Adams Heights/Sugar Hill Neighborhood Association, spent 10 years with the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, volunteers at Wilshire Crest Elementary School, and is the co-owner/publisher of the Buzz.

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