Measles and the MMR vaccine
*The best way to protect against measles is to get the measles-mumps-rubella shot (called the MMR shot). Doctors recommend that all children get the MMR shot.
What is measles?
Measles is a serious respiratory disease (in the lungs and breathing tubes) that causes a rash and fever. It is very contagious. In rare cases, it can be deadly.
What are the symptoms of measles?
Measles starts with a fever that can get very high. Some of the other symptoms that may occur are:
- Cough, runny nose, and red eyes
- Rash of tiny, red spots that start at the head and spread to the rest of the body
- Ear infection
Is it serious?
Measles can be dangerous, especially for babies and young children. From 2001-2013, 28% of children younger than 5 years old who had measles had to be treated in the hospital.
For some children, measles can lead to:
- Pneumonia (a serious lung infection)
- Lifelong brain damage
How does measles spread?
Measles spreads when a person infected with the measles virus breathes, coughs, or sneezes. It is very contagious. You can catch measles just by being in a room where a person with measles has been, up to 2 hours after that person is gone. And you can catch measles from an infected person even before they have a measles rash. Almost everyone who has not had the MMR shot will get measles if they are exposed to the measles virus.
Where do measles cases in the United States come from?
Every year, unvaccinated U.S. residents get measles while they are abroad and bring the disease into the United States and spread it to others. Measles is common in other parts of the world, including countries in Europe, Asia, the Pacific Islands, and Africa. Worldwide, about 20 million people get measles each year. When people with measles travel into the United States, they can spread the disease to unvaccinated people including children too young to be vaccinated.
Where can I learn more about the MMR shot and my child?
To learn more about the MMR shot, talk to your child’s doctor, call 1-800-CDC-INFO, or visit www.cdc.gov/vaccines/parents.
For more in-depth information about measles, visit www.cdc.gov/measles.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Academy of Family Physicians, and the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommend children receive all vaccines according to the recommended schedule.
~Centers for Disease Control and Prevention