Measles Outbreak: Should Seniors and Family Caregivers Be Worried?

The recent outbreak of measles has sparked debate about immunizations for children, leaving family caregivers to wonder how it will affect their senior loved ones (and themselves).  Did you know that older adults got the measles at Disneyland? As of this writing, 121 people were affected in that outbreak, including people up to age 70.    In light of the recent outbreak, family caregivers of older adults should be aware of the discussion and following the latest news and research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regarding vaccines for seniors.  As we age, we can lose the original protection of vaccines to create disease-battling antibodies and “memory cells” that attack infections. Therefore even if once vaccinated, seniors could be at risk from the measles.

It is important for seniors to do all they can to protect themselves from measles because becoming a victim of some ‘childhood’ diseases, or even seasonal flu, pneumonia or shingles, can be life threatening.  The latest measles outbreak is global and half of those who contract the disease worldwide are dying from it.  The measles virus has been called the most infectious, contagious disease in man because it is a highly contagious respiratory virus. It begins with a high fever and gives the person a runny nose, cough, sore throat and in a few days the telltale rash appears. The virus is actually contagious four days before the rash appears.  It is estimated that three out of ten people getting the measles will get a complication such as pneumonia. Complications are much more likely in older adults.  According to health experts, if your senior had the measles he should be immune from contracting it again. If your senior was vaccinated as a child and only received one shot, she may need a booster. If they’re older than 52, chances are good they’ve been exposed to the measles and may have had it as a child.  If you’re not sure, your doctor can perform a simple blood test to determine immunity.


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