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Measles (Rubeola)

Key Points 

  1. Measles can be serious. 
  2. Measles is very contagious (spreads easily).  
  3. You have the power to protect your child against measles with a safe and effective vaccine.
  4. Traveling internationally? The vaccine schedule is different if you or your child are traveling internationally.

What is Measles? 

Pronounced (MEE-zills)

Measles, also called rubeola, is a serious and very contagious respiratory disease caused by a virus.

Signs and Symptoms

What are the symptoms of measles?

Some of the more common measles symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Red or pink watery eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Rash (3-5 days after symptoms begin)

To prevent the spread of illness, please contact your health care provider (doctor’s office, clinic, hospital) BEFORE going for care. This will help to prevent others at these facilities from being exposed to the illness.

Photos of Measles and People with Measles (Some of these photos might be unsuitable for children. Viewing discretion is advised.)

Related page: More information about measles signs and symptoms

What are the Complications of Measles?

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 how sick a person will get. 

  • About 1 in 5 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 to 3 out of 1,000 people with measles will die, even with the best care.
  • Ear infections occur in about 1 out of every 10 children with measles. 

International Travelers

Planning a trip outside the U.S.?

Before you travel internationally, we strongly encourage you to: 

  • Check your destination and CDC’s global travel notices.
  • Know your measles vaccination status.
  • Call your doctor, local health department, or a pharmacy (for travelers 18+ years) or travelers’ clinic to schedule an appointment for an MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine. CDC does not recommend measles vaccine for infants younger than 6 months of age. 
  • Monitor your health for three weeks after you return to the U.S. 

Related pages

Is There a Treatment for Measles?

There is no treatment but acetaminophen and ibuprofen may be taken to reduce a fever. People with measles also need bed rest and fluids. They also may need treatment for complications such as diarrhea, an ear infection or pneumonia.


How does measles spread? 

Measles is very contagious.  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.

Measles is a highly contagious virus that lives in the nose and throat mucus of an infected person. 

  • It can spread to others through coughing and sneezing.
  • If other people breathe the contaminated air or touch the infected surface, then touch their eyes, noses, or mouths, they can become infected.

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 2 hours after that person has left. 

Animals do not get or spread measles.

How long is a person with measles contagious?

A person with measles can pass it to others from 4 days before a rash appears through the 4th day after the rash appears.

All individuals who were exposed to measles and who do not know their vaccination status, are immunocompromised, or are pregnant should contact their health care provider immediately to discuss their situation. 


If my child or another family member has been exposed to measles, what should I do?

Immediately call your local health department, doctor or clinic for advice. Never been vaccinated? Get the Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine within 3 days of being exposed. This may prevent you from getting measles. Some people may need an immune globulin shot which are antibodies to the measles virus. It should be given within 6 days of being exposed. This may prevent or lessen the severity of measles.


Who is protected against measles?

Individuals are considered protected or immune to measles if they:

  • Born before 1957, or 
  • Received two doses of measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine, or 
  • Had measles disease, or
  • Have a lab test confirming immunity (titer)

Protect your child from measles Measles is still common in many parts of the world.  Unvaccinated travelers who get measles in other countries continue to bring the disease into the United States. [Illustration of a plane flying around the world]  Give your child the best protection against measles with two doses of measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine: MMR 1st dost at 12-15 months 2nd dose at 4-6 years [Illustration of MMR vaccine]  Traveling abroad with your child? Infants 6 to 11 months old need 1 dose of measles vaccine before traveling abroad.  Children 12 months and older should receive 2 doses before travel.  Check with your pediatrician before leaving on your trip to make sure your children are protected.  [logo] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and PreventionMeasles Vaccine

When is the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine given?

Your child needs two doses of MMR vaccine for best protection:

  1. The first dose at 12 through 15 months of age
  2. The second dose at 4 through 6 years of age

Individuals may also be vaccinated later in life. In NY State, measles immunization is required for children enrolled in schools, daycare, and pre-kindergarten. Since August 1990, college students have also been required to prove immunity against measles.

Another vaccine, the measles-mumps-rubella-varicella (MMRV) vaccine, which protects against 4 diseases, is also available to children 12 months through 12 years of age.

Is getting vaccinated the best way to prevent measles?

Getting the measles vaccine is the best way to prevent measles.

There is no link between vaccines and autism.  Scientists in the United States and other countries have carefully studied the MMR shot.  No studies have found a link between autism and the MMR shot

How effective is the measles vaccine?

The measles vaccine is very effective. One dose of measles vaccine is about 93% effective at preventing measles if exposed to the virus. Two doses are about 97% effective.

My child is too young to get the measles vaccine. How can I protect them from getting measles?

Your child may be too young to get the measles vaccine, but you can protect them by making sure everyone who lives in or visits your home is vaccinated. Avoid people who are sick with measles. Talk to your health care provider. Your child may benefit from immunoglobulin (IG) if they have been around someone who has measles.

What should I do if I'm not sure I was vaccinated against measles?

Check with your health care provider. If you were born before 1957 it's likely that you have been exposed to the virus and are immune. If you were born between 1957 and 1971, the vaccine you received may not have been as reliable. Ask your doctor if you've been properly vaccinated.

Can I still get measles if I am fully vaccinated? 

Very few people—about three out of 100—who get two doses of measles vaccine will still get measles if exposed to the virus. Experts aren’t sure why. It could be that their immune systems didn’t respond as well as they should have to the vaccine. But the good news is, fully vaccinated people who get measles seem more likely to have a milder illness. And fully vaccinated people seem also less likely to spread the disease to other people, including people who can’t get vaccinated because they are too young or have weakened immune systems.

Do I ever need a booster vaccine for measles?

No. CDC considers people who received two doses of measles vaccine as children according to the U.S. vaccination schedule protected for life, and they do not ever need a booster dose.

If you’re not sure whether you are fully vaccinated, talk with your healthcare provider.

Where can I be Vaccinated? 

Call your medical provider for vaccination or serology testing.  Several local pharmacies may also offer MMR vaccine.

Call the Erie County Department of Health Immunization Clinic for a vaccination appointment at (716) 858-7687 (choose option 5).

Reporting a Suspected Case of Measles

I am a medical care provider, where do I report a case of Measles?

Immediately report patients with suspected measles to the Local Health Department (LHD) where the patient resides. Erie County residents should be reported to the ECDOH Office of Epidemiology and Disease Surveillance at (716) 858-7697.

Additional Resources