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Measles: Make Sure Your Child Is Fully Immunized

Going to the Philippines?

Before you leave for your trip, read this CDC Travel Notice about measles in the Philippines that was posted on March 18, 2014.

Measles in the U.S.

From January 1 to April 18, 2014, 129 people in the United States have been reported as having measles. Usually only about 60 cases in the United States are reported each year.

Measles Can Be Serious

  • For every 1,000 children who get measles, one or two will die from the disease.
  • 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.
  • Serious complications from measles are more common in children younger than 5 years old and adults 20 years of age and older.

Measles is a highly contagious disease caused by a virus. Measles starts with a fever. Soon after, it causes a cough, runny nose, and red eyes. Then a rash of tiny, red spots breaks out. It starts at the head and spreads to the rest of the body. Measles can be serious for young children. It can lead to pneumonia, encephalitis (swelling of the brain), and death. Measles spreads through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It is so contagious that if one person has it, 90% of the people around him or her will also become infected if they are not protected.

People in the United States still get measles, but it's not very common. That's because most people in this country are protected against measles through vaccination. However, since measles is still common in other parts of the world, including many countries in Europe, Asia, the Pacific, and Africa, measles is brought into the United States by people who get infected while they are abroad.

Measles can spread quickly in communities where people are not vaccinated. Children and anyone else who is not protected against measles is at risk of getting infected. That's why it is so important to make sure your child's vaccines are up to date, including before traveling abroad.

Protect Your Child with Measles Vaccine

You can protect your child against measles with a combination vaccine that provides protection against three diseases: measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR). The MMR vaccine is proven to be very 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 of age. 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.

Make Sure Your Child is Protected Before Traveling Abroad

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To See If Your Child's Vaccine Is Due

People 6 months of age and older should be protected against measles before they travel abroad.

  • Infants 6 months through 11 months of age should have one dose of MMR vaccine before they travel abroad. (Infants who get 1 dose of MMR vaccine before their first birthday should get two more doses of the vaccine: one dose at 12 through 15 months of age and another dose at least 28 days later).
  • Children 12 months of age or older should have 2 doses separated by at least 28 days before they travel abroad.

Talk with your child's doctor to see if he or she should be vaccinated before traveling abroad.

Some adults need measles vaccine too. For more information, see Measles Vaccination: Who Needs It?

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. Learn how to pay for vaccines.

If you don't have insurance or if your insurance does not cover vaccines for your child, the Vaccines for Children Program may be able to help. This program helps families of eligible children who might not otherwise have access to vaccines. To find out if your child is eligible, visit the VFC website or ask your child's doctor. You can also contact your state VFC coordinator.

More Information

Want to Know More About Measles?

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Click “Disease of the Week,” find measles, and take the quiz to test your knowledge! Available on iOS, Android and Windows 8 tablets

 

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  • Page last reviewed: April 21, 2014
  • Page last updated: April 21, 2014
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