What is measles?

Measles is a contagious virus that lives in human mucus and causes respiratory infections. It is most common in children.

How is measles transmitted?

Measles can be spread when somebody coughs or sneezes. It can live for up to 2 hours in a space where somebody coughed or sneezed. A person can get the measles if they breathe in the virus or touch their eyes, nose, mouth, or ears with an infected hand. If one person has measles, 90% of people that are close to them can receive measles if they are not immune.

What are the symptoms of measles?

measles-symptoms-includeSymptoms of measles show between 7 and 14 days after a person becomes infected. Symptoms include:

  • High fever
  • Cough
  • Runny nose
  • Red, watery eyes
  • Koplic spots (tiny, white spots on the inside of the mouth)
  • Flat red rash on the face
  • Rash spreads from face to body and may become bumpy

Who is at risk for measles?

Measles is serious for people of all ages, but it is more common in children than adults.   It is most risky for:

  • Children younger than 5
  • Adults older than 20

What are the complications of measles?

Common complications include ear infections and diarrhea. ÂMore serious complications include:

  • Pneumonia
  • Encephalitis
  • Subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE)
  • Death

What should I do if I have been exposed to measles?

Immediately contact your doctor if you have been exposed to measles. You doctor will determine if you are immune based on your medical history. If you are not immune, your doctor may prescribe medicine or a vaccine to help reduce the chances of getting the disease.

I think I have measles. What should I do?

Call your doctor immediately if you believe you have measles based on your symptoms. Your doctor can determine if you are immune based on your medical history or make an appointment to evaluate you safely.

How can I prevent measles?

The U.S. declared that measles had been eliminated from the country in 2000 due to a highly effective vaccine (MMR). The best way to prevent measles is to get your MMR vaccine. The vaccine is 97% effective, but 3 out of 100 people will still get measles even if they’ve had their two doses of MMR. This could be due to the immune system’s decreased response to the vaccine.

If I have measles, how can I prevent spreading the disease?

  • Stay home to prevent spreading the disease
  • Cough or sneeze into a tissue or your upper arm
  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Do not share drinks or eating utensils
  • Disinfect frequently touched surfaces

How do I know if I’m immune to measles?

Immunity can be determined by checking for written immunity documentation or checking your vaccination records for an MMR vaccine. If you do not find written documentation of the vaccine, you should receive 2 doses of the MMR vaccine. You can also get a blood test to see if you are immune to measles, although this is more expensive and time consuming.

You can determine if you are protected from measles if you have had 2 doses of the MMR vaccine for:

  • School-aged children (over 5 years)
  • Adults not vaccinated as children that are in a high-risk setting (healthcare professionals, people who work in schools, frequent travelers)

With 1 dose of MMR, you are protected if you are:

  • a pre-schooled aged child
  • adult who is not in an at-risk setting

What Parents Need to Know About Measles

  1. Measles can be very serious.   Measles can cause serious complications including deafness, intellectual disabilities, and death.
  2. Measles can be very contagious. Up to 90% of unprotected people can get measles if they are close to an infected person.   It is important to keep children at home and get medical advice immediately if you believe your child has the measles.
  3. Your child can still get measles in the U.S. Every year, unvaccinated travelers bring measles to the U.S. from countries where the disease has not been eliminated. They can spread the disease to other unvaccinated people.
  4. The best way to prevent measles is to vaccinate your child. You have the power to protect your child. The first dose should be given between 12 and 15 months. The second should be given between 4 and 6 years old.

How can travelers prevent measles when traveling internationally?

The best way to prevent measles is to get 2 doses of the MMR vaccine.

For more information on measles, outbreaks, and measles vaccinations, visit