Measles – What you need to know
From January 1 to May 10, 2019, 839 individual cases of measles have been confirmed in 23 states, including California (45 cases to date – 1 case in Alameda county, 4 cases in Santa Clara county). This is an increase of 75 cases from the previous week. This is the greatest number of cases reported in the U.S. since 1994 and since measles was declared eliminated in 2000 thanks to a highly effective vaccination program. However, measles is still common in many parts of the world (higher incidence in Europe, Asia, the Pacific, and Africa). Each year around the world, an estimated 10 million people get measles, and about 110,000 of them die from it.
Even if your family does not travel internationally, you could come into contact with measles anywhere in your community. Every year, measles is brought into the United States by unvaccinated travelers (mostly Americans and sometimes foreign visitors) who get measles while they are in other countries. Anyone who is not protected against measles is at risk.
1. Measles can be serious
Some people think of measles as just a little rash and fever that clears up in a few days, but measles can cause serious health complications, especially in children younger than 5 years of age. There is no way to tell in advance the severity of the symptoms your child will experience.
About 1 in 4 people in the U.S. who get measles will be hospitalized
1 out of every 1,000 people with measles will develop brain swelling, which could lead to brain damage
1 or 2 out of 1,000 people with measles will die, even with the best care
Some of the more common measles symptoms include:
high fever (may spike to more than 104° F),
runny nose (coryza),
red, watery eyes (conjunctivitis), and
rash (3-5 days after symptoms begin).
2. Measles is very contagious.
Measles is a virus that spreads through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It is so contagious that if one person has it, up to 9 out of 10 people around him or her will also become infected if they are not protected. Your child can get measles just by being in a room where a person with measles has been, even up to two hours after that person has left. An infected person can spread measles to others even before knowing he/she has the disease—from four days before developing the measles rash through four days afterward.
People at high risk for severe illness and complications from measles include:
Infants and children aged <5 years
Adults aged >20 years
People with compromised immune systems, such as from leukemia and HIV infection
3. You have the power to protect your child against measles with a safe and effective vaccine.
The best protection against measles is measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine. MMR vaccine provides long-lasting protection against all strains of measles. There is no single vaccine for measles.
One dose of MMR vaccine is approximately 93% effective at preventing measles; two doses are approximately 97% effective. Almost everyone who does not respond to the measles component of the first dose of MMR vaccine at age 12 months or older will respond to the second dose. Therefore, the second dose of MMR is administered to address primary vaccine failure
CDC recommends routine childhood immunization for MMR vaccine starting with the first dose at 12 through 15 months of age, and the second dose at 4 through 6 years of age or at least 28 days following the first dose.
Students at post-high school educational institutions
Students at post-high school educational institutions without evidence of measles immunity need two doses of MMR vaccine, with the second dose administered no earlier than 28 days after the first dose.
People who are born during or after 1957 who do not have evidence of immunity against measles should get at least one dose of MMR vaccine. If you were born before 1957, you are considered immune (protected against) measles.
If you are not certain if you have been vaccinated, please ask your doctor for a blood test to check for immunity. If you are not immune, your doctor will recommend a vaccination.
People 6 months of age or older who will be traveling internationally should be protected against measles. Before traveling internationally,
Infants 6 through 11 months of age should receive one dose of MMR vaccine†
Children 12 months of age or older should have documentation of two doses of MMR vaccine (the first dose of MMR vaccine should be administered at age 12 months or older; the second dose no earlier than 28 days after the first dose)
Teenagers and adults born during or after 1957 without evidence of immunity against measles should have documentation of two doses of MMR vaccine, with the second dose administered no earlier than 28 days after the first dose
† Infants who get one dose of MMR vaccine before their first birthday should get two more doses according to the routinely recommended schedule (one dose at 12 through 15 months of age and another dose at 4 through 6 years of age or at least 28 days later).
Your child needs two doses of MMR vaccine for best protection.
Some people should not get MMR vaccine or should wait. Tell your vaccine provider if the person getting the vaccine:
Has any severe, life-threatening allergies. A person who has ever had a life-threatening allergic reaction after a dose of MMR vaccine, or has a severe allergy to any part of this vaccine, may be advised not to be vaccinated. Ask your health care provider if you want information about vaccine components.
Is pregnant, or thinks she might be pregnant. Pregnant women should wait to get MMR vaccine until after they are no longer pregnant. Women should avoid getting pregnant for at least 1 month after getting MMR vaccine.
Has a weakened immune system due to disease (such as cancer or HIV/AIDS) or medical treatments (such as radiation, immunotherapy, steroids, or chemotherapy).
Has a parent, brother, or sister with a history of immune system problems.
Has ever had a condition that makes them bruise or bleed easily.
Has recently had a blood transfusion or received other blood products. You might be advised to postpone MMR vaccination for 3 months or more.
Has gotten any other vaccines in the past 4 weeks. Live vaccines given too close together might not work as well.
Is not feeling well. A mild illness, such as a cold, is usually not a reason to postpone a vaccination. Someone who is moderately or severely ill should probably wait. Your doctor can advise you.
For more information, please visit https://www.cdc.gov/measles/