Measles in the News
From January 1 to January 23, 2015, 68 people from 11 states were reported to have measles. Most of these cases are part of a large, ongoing outbreak linked to an amusement park in California. On January 23, 2015, CDC issued a Health Advisory to notify public health departments and healthcare facilities about this multi-state outbreak and to provide guidance for healthcare providers nationwide.
The United States experienced a record number of measles cases during 2014, with 644 cases from 27 states reported to CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD). This is the greatest number of cases since measles elimination was documented in the U.S. in 2000. Click for more information.
What is Measles?
Measles is a highly contagious rash illness caused by a virus.
Though measles is relatively rare in the United States, it remains a leading cause of death among young children worldwide. Measles is usually thought of as a childhood disease, but people of any age can get it. Complications of measles include diarrhea, otitis media (inflammation of the middle ear), pneumonia (lung infection), encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), seizures, and death. Complications are most common in children younger than 5 years of age and adults 20 years of age and older.
How is it Spread?
Measles is spread from person-to-person by airborne droplets and direct contact with infected respiratory secretions.
The highly contagious virus can be found in the air after someone who is infected with measles coughs or sneezes. The virus can also be spread by direct contact with infected nasal or throat secretions. The virus can remain contagious on surfaces for up to 2 hours. A person can spread measles from 4 days before to 4 days after the rash develops. Anyone with measles should not attend childcare, school, work, or other public places until they are no longer contagious.
What are Symptoms of Measles?
- Rash that starts on the face and neck and then spreads. The rash fades in the order in which it appears.
- High fever
- Runny nose
- Red, watery eyes
- Cough (sometimes like Croup)
- Small red spots, with blue and white centers inside the mouth (Koplik spots)
Symptoms such as fever, cough, and watery eyes may occur within 8 to 12 days after exposure. It usually takes 14 days (range 7-18 days) after exposure to develop a rash.
What do I do if I’ve Been in Contact with Someone Who Has the Measles?
A person in close contact with someone who has measles should be notified of the exposure, determine if they are susceptible to getting measles, and treated if necessary. Vaccine given within 72 hours of measles exposure may provide protection from developing measles in some cases. Treatment with a product called Immune Globulin (IG) may prevent measles if given within 6 days of exposure. Check with your doctor or local health department for advice. Close contacts may include:
- Persons who live in the same house;
- Persons who have done medical treatments such as mouth-to-mouth resuscitation or intubation;
- Close social contacts in child and daycare settings, schools, work, or extracurricular activities; or
- Persons who were exposed during travel to countries in which measles is endemic.
Is There a Vaccine for Measles?
The best way to protect against measles is to get the measles-mumps-rubella shot (called the MMR shot). Doctors recommend that all children get the MMR shot.
Why should my child get the MMR shot?
- Protects your child from measles, a potentially serious disease (and also protects against mumps and rubella)
- Prevents your child from getting an uncomfortable rash and high fever from measles
- Keeps your child from missing school or childcare (and keeps you from missing work to care for your sick child)
Is the MMR shot safe?
Yes. The MMR shot is very safe, and it is effective at preventing measles (as well as mumps and rubella). Vaccines, like any medicine, can have side effects. But most children who get the MMR shot have no side effects.
What are the side effects?
Most children do not have any side effects from the shot. The side effects that do occur are usually very mild, such as a fever or rash. More serious side effects are rare. These may include high fever that could cause a seizure (in about 1 person out of every 3,000 who get the shot) and temporary pain and stiffness in joints (mostly in teens and adults).
Adults and the Measles
- Adults born in 1957 or later who do not have a medical contraindication should receive at least one dose of the MMR vaccine, unless they have documentation of vaccination with at least one dose of measles-containing vaccine or other acceptable evidence of immunity to the disease.
- College and university students, healthcare personnel, and international travelers are at increased risk for measles, and should receive two doses of the MMR vaccine to ensure adequate protection.