The nurse was wearing protective equipment, but still contracted the virus
Multiple large-scale studies have found that vaccines are safe. There is no scientific link between vaccines and autism, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
In a rare case, a Seattle nurse contracted the measles after caring for a patient with the highly contagious virus, despite being fully vaccinated and wearing protective equipment, health officials confirmed on Monday.
The nurse, who is in her 20s, was working at Seattle Children’s Hospital and tending to a young patient with measles when she developed the infection. The hospital says that she was potentially contagious while working from July 8 through 11.
The Centers for Disease Control say that people in high-risk environments — such as college students, international travelers, people in communities experiencing outbreaks of the measles and, like this nurse, those in the medical field — should get a measles booster.
The hospital is contacting patients, families and staff who may have been exposed to the virus.
While extremely unusual, it is possible to contract the measles after getting fully vaccinated, according to Dr. Travis Stork, an ER physician, host of The Doctors and a member of PEOPLE’s Health Squad.
Stork previously told PEOPLE it’s “very unlikely,” but if it does happen, it will be a lesser version of the virus.
“Only about three out of 100 people who get two doses of measles vaccine will still get measles if exposed to the virus, and those will have a much milder illness and are less likely to spread the disease to others,” he said.
And while the “overwhelming majority” of Americans who were fully vaccinated as children with both doses of MMR vaccine will not contract the measles, getting a booster can’t hurt.
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“There is no harm in getting another dose of MMR vaccine if you may already be immune to measles (or mumps or rubella),” states the CDC on its website.
Seattle and the rest of the Pacific Northwest are part of an extensive measles outbreak in the U.S., the worst in over 25 years. Washington governor Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency due to the measles in January, and the Seattle Children’s nurse is the tenth case in King County this year.
There have been 1,123 reported cases of the measles in 2019, according to the CDC. This is the most since measles was declared eliminated in 2000. The outbreaks are largely occurring in communities of unvaccinated people, either due to religious beliefs or misinformation that has spread online about the safety of vaccines. But several large studies have confirmed that the measles vaccine is completely safe.
“Measles is preventable and the way to end this outbreak is to ensure that all children and adults who can get vaccinated, do get vaccinated,” CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said in June. “Again, I want to reassure parents that vaccines are safe, they do not cause autism. The greater danger is the disease the vaccination prevents.”