Measles is a highly contagious, serious disease caused by a virus. In 1980, before widespread vaccination, measles caused an estimated 2.6 million deaths worldwide each year. The disease remains one of the leading causes of death among young children globally, despite the availability of a safe and effective vaccine. It spreads through the air through coughing and sneezing. Illness begins with a fever, runny nose, cough, red eyes, and sore throat, and is followed by a rash that spreads all over the body. About three out of 10 people who get measles will develop one or more complications including pneumonia, ear infections, or diarrhea. Complications are more common in adults and young children.

Our best protection against measles is to insure that we have had the appropriate vaccinations. Children should get two doses of MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine—the first dose at 12 through 15 months of age and the second dose at 4 through 6 years of age. Some adults need MMR vaccine too. Ask your healthcare provider to review your medical record to be sure that you have immunity.

Who is at Increased Risk of Becoming Infected with Measles?

  • Infants who are too young to have been immunized (less than 1 year of age)
  • Persons who received immune globulin around the same time as when they were vaccinated against measles
  • Persons who were vaccinated with an inactivated vaccine (available from 1963-1967) and have not been re-vaccinated
  • Those who refused vaccination, or are from a part of the world where there is low vaccination coverage
Learn more about the causes, spread, and vaccinations for measles.

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