Diseases > Measles
What is measles?
Measles is an infectious viral disease that occurs most often in the late winter and spring. It begins with a fever that lasts for a couple of days, followed by a cough, runny nose, and conjunctivitis (pink eye). A rash starts on the face and upper neck, spreads down the back and trunk, then extends to the arms and hands, as well as the legs and feet. After about five days, the rash fades the same order it appeared.
How can I catch measles?
Measles is highly contagious. Infected people are usually contagious from
about 4 days before their rash starts to 4 days afterwards. The measles virus resides in the mucus in the nose and throat of infected people. When they sneeze or cough, droplets spray into the air and the droplets remain active and contagious on infected surfaces for up to two hours.
How serious is the disease?
Measles itself is unpleasant, but the complications
are dangerous. Six to 20 percent of the people
who get the disease will get an ear infection,
diarrhea, or even pneumonia. One out of 1000
people with measles will develop inflammation
of the brain, and about one out of 1000 will
is vaccination necessary?
Before the measles vaccine became available,
there were approximately 450,000 measles cases
and an average of 450 measles-associated deaths
were reported each year. Widespread use of
measles vaccine has led to a greater than 99%
reduction in measles cases in the U.S. compared
with the pre-vaccine era.
However, measles is common in other countries
where it spreads rapidly and can be easily
brought into the U.S. If vaccinations were
stopped, measles would return to pre-vaccine
levels in the U.S. and hundreds of people would
die from measles-related illnesses.
still a problem in the United States?
still see measles among visitors to the U.S.
and among U.S. travelers returning from other
countries. The measles viruses these travelers
bring into our country sometimes causes outbreaks.
However, because most people in the U.S.
have been vaccinated, these outbreaks are
vaccination in the U.S. has decreased the number of cases to the lowest
point ever reported. Widespread use of the measles vaccine has led to a
greater than 99% reduction in measles compared with the pre-vaccine era when
approximately 450,000 cases and 450 deaths were reported each year.
chance of the diseases is so low, why do
I need the vaccine?
is true that vaccination has enabled us to
reduce measles and most other vaccine-preventable
diseases to very low levels in the United
States. However, measles is still very common
— even epidemic — in other parts of the world.
Visitors to our country and U.S. travelers
returning from other countries can unknowingly
bring this disease into the United States,
and if we were not protected by vaccinations,
it will quickly spread causing an epidemics
here. The disease is very contagious.
should be vaccinated protect ourselves and our children. Even if we think
our chances of getting measles is small, the disease still exists and can
still infect anyone who is not protected.
kind of vaccine
is given to prevent measles?
MMR vaccine prevents measles and two other viral diseases — mumps and
rubella. These three vaccines are safe given together. MMR is a attenuated
(weakened) live virus vaccine. This means that after injection, the
viruses grows, and causes a harmless infection in the vaccinated person
with very few, if any symptoms. The person's immune system fights the
infection caused by these weakened viruses and immunity develops which
lasts throughout that person’s life.
effective is MMR vaccine?
than 95% of the people who receive a single dose of MMR will develop
immunity to all three viruses. A second gives immunity to almost all of
those who did not respond to the first dose.
is MMR vaccine given after the
infants born in the United States will receive
passive protection against measles, mumps,
and rubella in the form of antibodies from
their mothers. These antibodies can destroy
the vaccine virus if they are present when
the vaccine is administered and cause it
to be ineffective. By 12 months of age, almost
all infants have lost this passive protection.
What is the best
age to give the second
dose of MMR vaccine?
second dose of MMR can be given anytime, as long as the child is at least
12 months old and it has been at least a month since the first dose.
However, the second dose is usually administered before the child begins
kindergarten or first grade (4-5 years of age) or before entry to middle
school (11-12 years of age). The age at which the second dose is required
is generally mandated by state school entry requirements.
As an adult, do I need the MMR vaccine?
do not need the MMR vaccine if you
blood tests that show you are immune to measles, mumps, and rubella
a man born before 1957
a woman born before 1957 who is sure she is not having more children,
has already had rubella vaccine, or has had a positive rubella test
had two doses of MMR or one dose of MMR plus a second dose of measles
had one dose of MMR and are not at high risk of measles exposure.
should get the measles vaccine if you are not among the categories
listed above, and
a college student, trade school student, or other student beyond high
in a hospital or other medical facility
internationally, or are a passenger on
a cruise ship
- are a woman
of childbearing age.
people who received MMR in the
1960s need to have their dose repeated?
Not necessarily. People
who have documentation of receiving LIVE
measles vaccine in the 1960s do not need
to be revaccinated. People who were vaccinated
prior to 1968 with either inactivated (killed)
measles vaccine or measles vaccine of unknown
type should be revaccinated with at least
one dose of live attenuated measles vaccine.
This recommendation is intended to protect
those who may have received killed measles
vaccine, which was available in 1963-1967
and was not effective.
are people born before 1957
exempt to receiving MMR vaccine?
born in 1957 and before lived through several years of epidemic measles
before the first measles vaccine was licensed. As a result, these people
are very likely to have had the measles disease. Surveys suggest that 95%
to 98% of those born before 1957 are immune to measles. Note: The
"1957 rule" applies only to measles and mumps, and does NOT
apply to rubella.
I am two
months pregnant. Is it safe for me to have my 15-month-old vaccinated with
the MMR vaccine?
Measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine viruses
are not transmitted from the vaccinated person,
so MMR does not pose a risk to a pregnant
breast feeding my 2 month old baby. Is
it safe for me to receive the MMR vaccine?
Breast feeding does not interfere with the response to MMR vaccine.
15-month-old child was exposed to chickenpox yesterday. Is it safe for him
to receive the MMR vaccine today?
Disease exposure, including chickenpox, should not delay anyone from
receiving the benefits of the MMR or any other vaccine.
What is the
most common reaction following MMR vaccine?
have no reaction. However, 5 percent to 10
percent of the people receiving the MMR vaccine
experience a low grade fever and a mild rash.
Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) and Autism
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