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Protect yourself against measles — vaccinate

May 08, 2019

For many years, routine vaccinations have helped stop almost all measles infections in the United States. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported recent measles outbreaks in a large number of states. Measles is highly contagious and can spread very easily, so it’s important to protect yourself and your family by getting vaccinated.    

What is measles?

It’s a serious viral disease that usually begins with a fever, followed by a cough, runny nose, watery eyes and a rash. Measles can also cause ear infections and pneumonia. In rare cases, measles can lead to more serious problems, such as hearing loss, brain damage and even death. There’s no antiviral treatment for measles, only for symptoms of infection. Measles is especially dangerous for babies and young children, whose immune systems aren’t fully developed yet. People with weakened immune systems (for example, due to AIDS or certain cancers) are also at risk for severe measles infection.

How it spreads

The measles virus spreads through the air when infected people breathe, sneeze or cough. Droplets can remain contagious on surfaces for up to two hours. This means you can get measles even without physical contact with an infected person. About 90% of individuals exposed to the measles virus become infected if they’re not immune to it. If you’ve already had measles, you’re not likely to get it again because your body is now immune to the virus.  

The best protection: vaccination

The measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine protects against measles as well as mumps and rubella. Two doses of the MMR vaccine are about 97% effective against measles. One dose is about 93% effective. The CDC recommends children get their first MMR shot at 12 to 15 months, and a second shot at four to six years of age. Infants who are six months and older should get their first MMR shot before traveling outside the country. Adults who aren’t immunized should get at least one dose of the MMR vaccine.

The MMR vaccine is safe, effective and appropriate for most people. It’s approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Side effects, if any, are usually mild. It’s important to note that getting vaccinated is a lot safer than getting measles. And when you get vaccinated, you’re protecting more than just yourself. You’re also protecting those around you who cannot be vaccinated safely, such as pregnant women, infants under six months and people with weak immune systems.   

Talk to your doctor about getting vaccinated

Don’t wait until you have measles symptoms. If you’ve never had measles or you’re not sure you’re immune (meaning you don’t have evidence of immunity), talk to your doctor. Find out if an MMR vaccine or follow-up dose (also called a booster shot) is right for you. Vaccines are usually covered 100% by most insurance plans as part of your preventive care benefit. Check your health plan for details.

Visit the CDC website to learn more about measles and measles vaccination.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website:
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: