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Measles vaccines stay effective your entire life

If you got the two-round vaccination as a kid, doctors say you don't need any other shots to protect against the growing measles outbreak.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The demand for the measles vaccine has surged as the Pacific Northwest deals with an massive outbreak. 

A Washington State county says orders for the vaccine are up 500 percent from last year. 

Measles is highly contagious. It starts with a high fever and watery eyes, eventually turning into a full body rash.

Doctors in East Tennessee say just because the outbreak is on the other side of the country, doesn't mean the virus won't make it to the Volunteer State. 

If you've had the measles shot, do you need another? If you haven't gotten one, can you as adult? 

No, and yes.

RELATED: Patients in Northwest measles outbreak traveled to Hawaii

There are two ways you can avoid getting the measles - get the vaccine, or get measles, because if you get it once you can't contract it again.

"Ninety percent of people who are exposed are going to get the measles from you," said Kim Crouch, an advanced nurse practitioner at Summit Express Clinic in Farragut. "So it's very contagious, one of the most contagious diseases that we have."

Measles is spreading around the country right now.

"If it comes to us, we will get it," said Crouch.

She had the measles when she was 8 years old.

"I remember how sick it was, how horrible I felt when I had measles," said Crouch. "It's not like, could this be measles or a cold. You're very ill."

The measles will give you a high fever, cough, watery eyes, runny nose and a spotty rash all over your body.

It knocks most people out for 8 to 10 days. 

"If you have measles and you're coughing in a room, when you leave and somebody else comes in, they could be exposed for up to two hours," said Crouch.

People like her who have already had the virus can't catch it again.

But Crouch says that's not the case for everyone else.

"We're all in danger of being exposed if you haven't been vaccinated," she said.

The vaccine is two rounds of shots.

The first is given when a kid is about one year old, the second right around kindergarten.

If you had those, you're set for life.

"It's 97 percent effective if you've had both those shots, which is pretty good," said Crouch.

There's no booster shot for measles, because the vaccine's effectiveness does not wear off.

If you weren't vaccinated as a child, adults can still get the vaccine as long as they're feeling healthy and not pregnant.

"It's very, very safe, very few side effects," said Crouch.

There are two vaccines doctors recommend adults continue to get regularly.

Those are a flu shot every year, and a tetanus shot every five to ten years.

If you have questions about your prior immunizations, you can contact your local health department or any medical office with access to the Tennessee Immunization Registry. You can also contact the TN Department of Health help desk at (844) 206-9927 or TennIIS.Help@tn.gov.

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