Millennial And Gen-X Travelers: Need Another Measles Shot?

Destination: Bulgaria. It’s a small country in Eastern Europe, often overlooked by American tourists. But my husband’s father grew up in Bulgaria, so it’s long been on our travel list.

It’s also on the list of countries with recent measles outbreaks. Bulgaria has had almost 800 cases this year, according to the World Health Organization.

In California, where I live, four of the five outbreaks that occurred this year were linked to international travel. Most of those travelers were infected in the Philippines or Ukraine, which have been experiencing severe outbreaks, and 37% of cases overall were imported from Europe. New measles infections continue to be reported, with California at 67 cases as of Aug. 28.

The measles virus is highly contagious. If someone who is sick visits a popular tourist site and coughs, or rides the subway and sneezes, the virus can live in the air for two hours after they leave. If people who lack immunity and are unvaccinated pass through the samespace, 90% of them will get sick.

That’s why the travel nurse at my health center wants to check on my vaccination status before I leave for Bulgaria. This is routine for Gen Xers and millennials born in the ’70s and ’80s, because when the measles, mumps, rubella vaccine (MMR) was first introduced in 1971, scientists recommended just one dose. But, over the years, they noticed some kids still got measles. It wasn’t until 1989 that public health officialschanged the guidelines to two doses.

But a lot of people who are now in their 30s and 40s, like me, aren’t sure if they ever got the second dose.

So my travel nurse recommends I go to the lab to get a blood test to check my immunity. It’s a basic test that looks for antibodies to measles, and should come back positive or negative — yes or no.

But my results come back “borderline.” In other words, maybe I’m immune, butmaybe I’m not.

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