Measles is a serious disease that affects the respiratory system and causes a rash and fever. It can be dangerous, especially for babies and young children. In some cases, it can cause swelling of the brain and lung infections, and in rare cases it can be deadly.
It is caused by a virus that spreads easily to other people when someone with measles coughs or sneezes.
Because most people in the United States have been vaccinated for measles, it is rare in the U.S., but it is common in many other parts of the world. Cases of measles in the U.S. are almost always linked to travel to other countries.
The MMR vaccine – the measles, mumps, rubella vaccine – is 97% effective in preventing the disease in people who have had two doses of it.
What are the signs and symptoms of measles?
Measles starts with a fever, runny nose, cough, red eyes, and sore throat. After a few days a red, spotty rash appears that spreads all over the body.
The first symptoms most often appear 8-12 days after someone has been exposed to measles, but can appear anytime between 7-21 days after exposure. Symptoms usually last 7-10 days.
How serious is measles?
Serious health problems from measles are more common in children younger than five and adults older than 20. About one out of 10 children with measles also gets an ear infection, and up to one out of 20 gets pneumonia. One or two out of 1,000 die from measles complications. Measles can also cause pregnant woman to miscarry or give birth prematurely.
What should I do if I think my child has measles?
If think you or your child might have measles, call your healthcare provider right away to schedule an appointment. They will make special arrangements before your office visit to make sure that you don’t expose other people to the measles virus.
If you or your child has symptoms of measles, be sure to stay at home. Avoid having visitors until you have talked with your doctor or healthcare provider.
How does measles spread?
Measles is very contagious and spreads so easily that anyone who is exposed to it and is not immune (for example, someone who has not been vaccinated) will probably get the disease.
It spreads when an infected person coughs or sneezes and releases tiny droplets into the air. You can get measles by breathing in those droplets, or if they contact your eyes or nose.
The measles virus can survive in the air for up to two hours in a room after a person with measles has left it.
Is there a vaccine?
Yes, the measles vaccine is part of the MMR vaccine, or the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine. The vaccine is very effective. Getting two doses is 97% effective in preventing measles, and one dose is about 93% effective.
How is measles prevented?
Getting the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine is the best protection against measles. The MMR vaccine is very safe and effective. Getting two doses of MMR vaccine is about 97% effective at preventing measles.
When more than 95% of people in a community are vaccinated against measles, the disease slows down and doesn’t spread. This is called community (or herd) immunity.
If you think you may have been exposed to measles, call your doctor, nurse or clinic.
How can I get the measles vaccine?
Check your vaccination status to see if you are up-to-date on the MMR vaccine. If you’re up-to-date there is no need to get another shot.
There are two ways to check your vaccination records:
If you need the vaccine, visit www.vaccinefinder.org to find a vaccine location near you. You can get the MMR vaccine from your usual healthcare provider and at local pharmacies and clinics. Your health insurance will cover the cost of the MMR vaccine if you need it.