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  • Measles

    Vaccination is your best protection.

    Contact your healthcare provider or pharmacy to get measles vaccine. View our children’s vaccines and adults’ vaccines pages to learn more.

    For help finding immunizations and healthcare, view our Medical, Behavioral Health, and Dental Care Options brochure. Also available in Español (Spanish)Русский (Russian), and Українська (Ukrainian).

    Measles Infographic

    Measles is a viral disease that spreads easily from person to person.

    Because of vaccine, measles is rare in the United States. It is still common in many other countries. Unvaccinated travelers can bring measles to the United States, where they expose others. High vaccination levels are critical to prevent measles from spreading.

    What are the symptoms?

    Measles usually appears in 2 stages. First, the person develops a fever, runny nose, and cough. After about 3 days, a raised, red, spotty rash develops. The rash starts on the face and spreads downward, covering the body, arms, and legs. Symptoms usually appear about 8–12 days after exposure.

    View Measles: What You Should Know. Also available in:

    View Measles Outbreak Information for Parents.

    What should I do?

    If you or your child have measles symptoms, stay home and avoid having visitors until you talk with your healthcare provider. Make special arrangements with your healthcare provider before you visit their office.

    How serious is measles?

    Measles is a serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and even death. Measles can cause serious problems like pneumonia, ear infections, and permanent brain damage. Complications are more common in children under 5 years old and adults over 20 years old. Measles can be especially severe in people with weak immune systems.

    In pregnancy, measles increases the risk of premature labor, miscarriage, and low-birth weight babies.

    How does it spread?

    Measles is very contagious. It spreads through tiny droplets from the nose and mouth when an infected person coughs or sneezes. You can catch measles when you breathe in these droplets or by direct contact with an infected person.

    The measles virus can survive in the air for up to 2 hours after a person with measles has been in the area. You can’t get measles more than once.

    Is there a measles vaccine?

    Yes. It comes bundled in the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine. MMR vaccine is very effective against measles. About 95% of people get protection after a single dose. Two doses protect 99% of people.

    Children should get 2 doses of MMR—the first at 12–15 months old and the second at 4–6 years old. Children can get the second dose of MMR as soon as 4 weeks after the first dose. Children need the second dose before they start school.

    • Adults born in 1957 or later should have 2 doses of MMR vaccine.
    • People born before 1957 are often immune, but should consider getting at least 1 dose of MMR vaccine.
    • Women who plan to have children and are not immune to measles should get 1 dose of MMR vaccine at least 4 weeks before pregnancy.

    My child isn’t old enough for the vaccine. What should I do?

    Children who can’t get the vaccine because they are under 1 year old need to have a ring of protection around them. That means everybody they come in contact with should be vaccinated—family, childcare workers, friends, community.

    If you are worried about your child, you might feel better if you avoid contact with the public if measles has been found in the community. You can call your child’s healthcare provider if you have concerns or questions. 

    Babies 6–12 months old should receive MMR vaccine if they are traveling to areas of the world where measles epidemics occur. We do not recommend babies under 12 months get vaccine for local travel. 

    What should I do if my child is in preschool or childcare?

    Children in childcare who are 12 months–6 years old need 1 dose of MMR vaccine. It is safe for them to attend if they have received it. 

    How long is a person contagious?

    A person can pass measles to others 4 days before their rash appears until 4 days after it appears.

    How is measles diagnosed?

    A doctor can diagnose measles with a physical exam and lab tests. Measles is so rare in the United States that many doctors have never seen the disease. Since many viruses can cause a rash, lab tests are essential.

    How is measles treated?

    No specific treatment for measles exists. People with measles need to rest and drink fluids to stay hydrated. Some people may also need treatment for diarrhea, ear infections, or pneumonia.

    What should I do if I think I’ve been exposed to measles?

    • Call your healthcare provider right away to see if you need vaccine.
    • For unvaccinated people, MMR offers protection within 3 days of exposure to measles.
    • People who can’t get the vaccine can receive antibody treatment up to 6 days after exposure. This may not prevent measles, but it can make the disease milder.

    What should travelers do?

    • Measles is more common in other parts of the world. Travelers should get the vaccine before leaving the United States.
    • Children 1 year or older should get 2 doses of MMR vaccine at least 28 days apart or a blood test showing immunity.
    • Children 6–11 months old should get 1 dose of MMR vaccine before traveling. These children will still need 2 doses of MMR vaccine at 12–15 months old and 4–6 years old.

    Will wearing a mask protect me from catching measles?

    Masks are ineffective against measles. The best way to protect yourself and those around you is MMR vaccine. 

    Where can I get more information?

    Talk with your healthcare provider or call us at (253) 649-1412.

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