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Measles Outbreak Traced to Fully Vaccinated Patient for First Time

April 2014 12:00 pm

Contagious. Measles vaccination rates top 90% in high-density cities like New York, but new data suggest even the immunized can catch and spread the disease.NYCstocker/iStockphoto/Thinkstock; (Inset) Dr. Heinz F. Eichenwald/CDCContagious. Measles vaccination rates top 90% in high-density cities like New York, but new data suggest even the immunized can catch and spread the disease.

Get the measles vaccine, and you won’t get the measles—or give it to anyone else. Right? Well, not always. A person fully vaccinated against measles has contracted the disease and passed it on to others. The startling case study contradicts received wisdom about the vaccine and suggests that a recent swell of measles outbreaks in developed nations could mean more illnesses even among the vaccinated.

When it comes to the measles vaccine, two shots are better than one. Most people in the United States are initially vaccinated against the virus shortly after their first birthday and return for a booster shot as a toddler. Less than 1% of people who get both shots will contract the potentially lethal skin and respiratory infection. And even if a fully vaccinated person does become infected—a rare situation known as “vaccine failure”—they weren’t thought to be contagious.

That’s why a fully vaccinated 22-year-old theater employee in New York City who developed the measles in 2011 was released without hospitalization or quarantine. But like Typhoid Mary, this patient turned out to be unwittingly contagious. Ultimately, she transmitted the measles to four other people, according to a recent report in Clinical Infectious Diseases that tracked symptoms in the 88 people with whom “Measles Mary” interacted while she was sick. Surprisingly, two of the secondary patients had been fully vaccinated. And although the other two had no record of receiving the vaccine, they both showed signs of previous measles exposure that should have conferred immunity.

A closer look at the blood samples taken during her treatment revealed how the immune defenses of Measles Mary broke down. As a first line of defense against the measles and other microbes, humans rely on a natural buttress of IgM antibodies. Like a wooden shield, they offer some protection from microbial assaults but aren’t impenetrable. The vaccine (or a case of the measles) prompts the body to supplement this primary buffer with a stronger armor of IgG antibodies, some of which are able to neutralize the measles virus so it can’t invade cells or spread to other patients. This secondary immune response was presumed to last for decades.

By analyzing her blood, the researchers found that Measles Mary mounted an IgM defense, as if she had never been vaccinated. Her blood also contained a potent arsenal of IgG antibodies, but a closer look revealed that none of these IgG antibodies were actually capable of neutralizing the measles virus. It seemed that her vaccine-given immunity had waned.

Read More:news.sciencemag.org/health/2014/04/measles-outbreak-traced-fully-vaccinated-patient-first-time

About Nathan Laurenson

Editor at The Daily Resistance, Citizen Journalist, Activist and Co Host Of Battle Of New Orleans Radio On 990 AM WGSO Airs 8pm Wed.| Resist Daily