Measles Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is measles?
Measles is a serious respiratory disease that causes a rash and fever. It is very contagious. You can catch it just by being in a room where someone with measles coughed or sneezed.
What are the symptoms
Measles Symptoms include: a fever, rash, cough, pink, watery eyes, conjunctivitis or runny nose, followed by appearance of a rash.
How is measles spread?
Measles is a highly contagious virus that lives in the nose and throat mucus of an infected person. It can spread to others through coughing and sneezing. Also, measles virus can live for up to two hours in an airspace where the infected person coughed or sneezed. If other people breathe the contaminated air or touch the infected surface, then touch their eyes, noses, or mouths, they can become infected. Also, infected people can spread measles to others from four days before through four days after the rash appears. Measles is a disease of humans; measles virus is not spread by any other animal species.
How long is a person with measles contagious?
A person with measles can pass it to others from 4 days before a rash appears through the 4th day after the rash appears.
Immunity (Protection against disease)
Individuals are considered protected or immune to measles if they:
- Born before 1957, or
- Received two doses of measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine, or
- Had measles disease, or
- Have a lab test confirming immunity (titer)
Typically, the first dose of MMR vaccine should be given at 12-15 months of age and the second dose should be given at four to six years of age (age of school entry), although individuals may also be vaccinated later in life. In New York State, measles immunization is required of children enrolled in schools, daycare, and pre-kindergarten. Since August 1990, college students have also been required to demonstrate immunity against measles.
What are the complications of measles?
A small number of people who get measles will need to be hospitalized and could die. Many people with measles have complications such as diarrhea, ear infections or pneumonia. They can also get a brain infection that can lead to permanent brain damage. Measles during pregnancy increases the risk of early labor, miscarriage and low birth weight infants. Measles can be more severe in people with weak immune systems.
Is there a treatment for measles?
There is no treatment but acetaminophen and ibuprofen may be taken to reduce a fever. People with measles also need bed rest and fluids. They also may need treatment for complications such as diarrhea, an ear infection or pneumonia.
If my child or another family member has been exposed to measles, what should I do?
Immediately call your local health department, doctor or clinic for advice. Never been vaccinated? Get the Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine within 3 days of being exposed. This may prevent you from getting measles. Some people may need an immune globulin shot -- antibodies to the measles virus. It should be given within 6 days of being exposed. This may prevent or lessen the severity of measles.
What is the best way to prevent measles?
Getting the measles vaccine is the best way to prevent measles.
What are the MMR vaccine requirements for school attendance?
For pre-kindergarten including day care, Head Start or nursery school: one dose of MMR vaccine
Kindergarten to grade 12: two doses of MMR vaccine
College: two doses of MMR vaccine
How effective is the measles vaccine?
The measles vaccine is very effective. One dose of measles vaccine is about 93% effective at preventing measles if exposed to the virus. Two doses are about 97% effective.
Could I still get measles if I am fully vaccinated?
Very few people—about three out of 100—who get two doses of measles vaccine will still get measles if exposed to the virus. Experts aren’t sure why. It could be that their immune systems didn’t respond as well as they should have to the vaccine. But the good news is, fully vaccinated people who get measles are much more likely to have a milder illness. And fully vaccinated people are also less likely to spread the disease to other people, including people who can’t get vaccinated because they are too young or have weakened immune systems.
Do I ever need a booster vaccine?
No. CDC considers people who received two doses of measles vaccine as children according to the U.S. vaccination schedule protected for life, and they do not ever need a booster dose.
Adults need at least one dose of measles vaccine, unless they have evidence of immunity. Adults who are going to be in a setting that poses a high risk for measles transmission should make sure they have had two doses separated by at least 28 days. These adults include students at post-high school education institutions, healthcare personnel, and international travelers.
If you’re not sure whether you were vaccinated, talk with your doctor. More information about who needs measles vaccine.