Measles: Make Sure Your Child is Fully Immunized
Measles continues to be brought into the U.S.
In 2013, 189 people in the United States have been reported as having measles. This is the second largest number of cases in the U.S. since measles was eliminated in 2000.
Most of these people were not vaccinated or did not know their vaccination status. Measles is brought into the United States by unvaccinated U.S. residents and foreign travelers who get infected when they are in other countries. They can infect others, which can lead to outbreaks in the United States.
Make sure your vaccinations are up-to-date, including when you are preparing to travel. And, if you plan to travel abroad with an infant or young child, be sure to talk with your child's doctor about what is recommended for measles vaccination of young travelers.
2013 Outbreaks in New York, North Carolina, and Texas
Measles outbreaks occurred in several states in 2013. A 58-case outbreak in New York was the largest U.S. measles outbreak since 1996. Another outbreak in North Carolina resulted in 23 cases, and an outbreak in Texas resulted in 21 cases.
Most adults born before 1957 had measles as children. They might remember being sick for a few days with a rash and fever. And they might recall that other children in their school or neighborhood had measles at the same time. Some children developed severe complications, like pneumonia or encephalitis (swelling of the brain), or even died from measles.
Today, thanks to vaccines, very few children in the United States get measles. The number of people with measles has decreased by more than 99% since a measles vaccine was licensed in 1963. But, to keep people protected against measles, we need to always have a high level of vaccination in the community.
Measles is still common in many countries—including many African, Asian, and European countries. So, measles can easily be brought into the United States by travelers or visitors who are infected. Measles is highly contagious and can spread quickly in areas and communities where people are not vaccinated.
Measles Can Be Serious
Complications from measles can be serious. They occur more commonly in children younger than 5 years old and adults 20 years of age or older. For every 1,000 children who get measles, one or two will die from the disease. In fact, worldwide, measles is still a significant cause of vaccine-preventable death among children. In 2008, there were about 164,000 measles deaths worldwide—that equals 450 deaths every day or 18 deaths every hour.
The Best Protection against Measles—the MMR or MMRV Vaccine
Measles vaccine is usually given as part of a combination vaccine that provides protection against three diseases: measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR). This vaccine is strongly endorsed by medical and public health experts as safe and effective.
CDC recommends that children get two doses—the first dose at 12 through 15 months of age and the second dose before entering school at 4 through 6 years of age.
Your child's doctor may offer the MMRV vaccine, which is a combination vaccine that protects against measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella (chickenpox). MMRV vaccine is licensed for children 12 months through 12 years old. It may be used in place of MMR vaccine if a child needs to have varicella vaccine in addition to measles, mumps, and rubella vaccines. Your child's doctor can help you decide which vaccine to use.
Anyone who is not protected against measles is at risk of getting infected with measles virus when they travel internationally. Check with your healthcare provider to see if you or your child (including children less than 12 months old) should be vaccinated before traveling.
To See If Your Child's Vaccine Is Due
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- Check your child's vaccination record,
- Contact his or her healthcare provider, or
- Visit the immunization scheduler for newborn to 6-year-old children.
Paying for Measles Vaccine
Most health insurance plans cover the cost of vaccines. But, you may want to check with your health insurance provider before going to the doctor. If you don't have insurance or if it does not cover vaccines, the Vaccines for Children Program may be able to help. This program helps families of eligible children get the vaccines they need. The vaccines are provided at no cost to doctors who serve eligible children. Find out if your child is eligible.
Some Adults Need Measles Vaccine Too
Anyone born during or after 1957 who has not had measles or been vaccinated is at risk and should get at least one dose of MMR vaccine. Two doses are recommended for adults who are at higher risk, such as college students, international travelers, and healthcare personnel.
The Measles and Rubella Initiative
In 2012, British illustrator Sophie Blackall traveled to the Democratic Republic of Congo as part of an immunization team working with The Measles and Rubella Initiative. Her collection of illustrations, “Let Every Child Have a Name: The Road to a World Without Measles”, tells the story of health care workers and families joining together in the fight against measles.
- To learn more about measles, MMR or MMRV vaccines, or other childhood vaccines, visit:
- About Measles
- Measles Fact Sheet [PDF - 679KB]
- Measles Vaccination
- Two Options for Protecting Your Child Against Measles, Mumps, Rubella, and Varicella – provides detailed information about MMR and MMRV vaccines
- Parents' Guide to Childhood Immunizations
- Measles-related information for travelers
- Measles, Mumps and Rubella Vaccines: What You Need to Know (Vaccine Information Statement) (English or other languages)
- To learn more about the VFC program, see the Vaccines for Children Program Q&As
- Información general sobre el sarampión
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