Measles is a virus that causes fever and a rash. It is highly contagious and anyone who is not vaccinated against the virus can get it at any age.
Although measles is rare in the United States because of high vaccination rates, it is still common in other parts of the world. Measles is common in some countries in Europe, Asia, and Africa and is occasionally brought into the Unites States by unvaccinated travelers who return with measles infection.
Measles is spread through the air when an infected person sneezes or coughs. A person will start being contagious four days before a rash appears. They will stop being contagious four days after the rash appears.
The virus remains active and contagious on surfaces for up to two hours.
Symptoms usually appear 10 to 12 days after exposure to the virus. In some cases, symptoms may start as early as seven days or as late as 21 days.
Early symptoms include:
Three to five days after initial symptoms, a rash of red spots appears on the face that then spreads over the entire body.
Anyone can become infected with measles, but the virus is more severe in infants, pregnant women and people whose immune systems are weak. Complications of measles include:
Vaccination is the best way to prevent measles. Anyone who has received two doses of a measles-containing vaccine is highly unlikely to get measles.
A child should get a measles vaccine on or after their first birthday. The vaccine is combined with mumps and rubella vaccines into one vaccine called MMR (measles, mumps, rubella). A second dose of MMR vaccine is recommended before children enter school at 4 to 6 years of age. Infants ages 6 to 11 months should also receive MMR vaccine before travelling internationally.
Anyone born after January 1, 1957, who has not received two doses of a measles-containing vaccine, or who does not have a blood test proving that they are already immune to measles, should receive two doses of the MMR vaccine.
For information on where you or your child can get vaccinated, call 311.
Most people who receive the MMR vaccine do not have any side effects. Some people experience mild side effects, such as fever, mild rash or swelling. Severe problems are very rare.
Vaccine ingredients do not cause autism. Since 2003, there have been nine CDC-funded or conducted studies that have found no link between thimerosal-containing vaccines and autism spectrum disorder (ASD), as well as no link between the MMR vaccine and ASD in children.
There is no specific medicine to treat the measles virus. Most of the time, people with measles will get better on their own. Treatment may be given for the symptoms of the virus.