Vaccinate Your Baby

Measles

Click on the photo above to open the Measles page from the Vaccine-Preventable Diseases eBook!

The Disease

Measles is a very contagious disease caused by a virus that grows in the cells in the back of the throat and lungs. The symptoms of measles generally begin about 7-14 days after a person is infected, and typically include a blotchy rash (usually begins on a person's face at the hairline and spreads down to the feet), fever, cough, runny nose, red and watery eyes, feeling run down and achy, and tiny white spots with bluish-white centers found inside the mouth. Measles photos can be found on the CDC website.

Measles spreads when a person infected with the measles virus breathes, coughs, or sneezes. People can catch measles just by being in a room where an infected person has been, even up to 2 hours after that person is gone. Almost everyone who has not been vaccinated will get measles if they are exposed to the measles virus.

Measles can be very serious and can cause complications including blindness, encephalitis (brain swelling that could result in deafness or mental retardation), severe diarrhea, ear infections that could lead to deafness, and pneumonia. In the U.S., roughly 1 in 5 people who develop measles require hospitalization. Measles can also be dangerous for pregnant women. The illness could lead them to have a miscarriage, give birth prematurely or have a low-birth-weight baby.

The Statistics

Measles is still common in many parts of the world including some countries in Europe, Asia, the Pacific, and Africa. According to the CDC, there are currently a record number of measles cases in the U.S. In 2014, 644 cases of measles were reported, and the numbers continue to rise in 2015. The majority of people who got measles were unvaccinated. And almost all measles cases were related to unvaccinated U.S. travelers who brought measles back into the United States with them and then spread it to groups of unvaccinated people, mostly unvaccinated due to philosophical or religious beliefs. For the most updated outbreak information, visit the CDC's measles webpage.

The Vaccine

MMR is a combination vaccine that protects against measles, mumps and rubella. For the best protection, children need 2 doses of the vaccine. The first dose of MMR should be given to children between 12 and 15 months of age and the second dose between 4 and 6 years of age. One dose of MMR vaccine is approximately 93% effective at preventing measles and two doses are approximately 97% effective. A combination vaccine that protects against measles, mumps, rubella and varicella (MMRV) is also available.

Students at post-high school educational institutions (e.g., college, vocational school, etc.) who have not already received 2 appropriately-spaced doses of MMR vaccine and who don't have evidence of immunity need 2 doses of the MMR vaccine.

Adults born after 1957 who have not had the measles or the MMR vaccine (and don't show evidence of immunity) should receive at least one dose of the MMR vaccine.

Healthcare personnel and childcare providers need to receive 2 doses of MMR vaccine if they don't have evidence of immunity from measles. Pregnant women and immunocompromised individuals should not receive the MMR vaccine.

All people 6 months of age and older who will be traveling internationally should make sure they are protected against measles.

  • Infants 6 through 11 months of age should receive one dose of MMR vaccine. Infants who get one dose of MMR vaccine before their first birthday should get two more doses (one dose at 12 through 15 months of age and another dose at least 28 days later).
  • Children 12 months of age and older should receive two doses of MMR vaccine, separated by at least 28 days.
  • Teenagers and adults who do not have evidence of immunity against measles should get two doses of MMR vaccine separated by at least 28 days.

Additional Resources

 

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