Measles Information

For the most up to date information on measles, please refer to the Florida Department of Health or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

What is Measles?

Measles is a respiratory disease caused by a virus (also called measles) that is transmitted by infected droplets in the air. The disease is also called rubeola. Measles virus normally grows in the cells that line the back of the throat and lungs.

How is Measles transmitted?

Measles is highly contagious and can spread to others from four days before to four days after the rash appears. Measles is so contagious that if one person has it, 90 percent of the people close to that person who are not vaccinated will also become infected with the measles virus.

The virus lives in mucus in the nose and throat of an infected person. When that person sneezes or coughs, droplets spray into the air. The droplets can get into other people’s noses or throats when they breathe or put their fingers in their mouth or nose after touching an infected surface. The virus can live on infected surfaces for up to two hours and spreads so easily that people who are not immune will probably get it when they come close to someone who is infected. Measles is a disease of humans; measles virus is not spread by any other animal species.

What are the symptoms of Measles?

The symptoms of measles generally begin about seven to 14 days after a person is infected and include:

  • Blotchy rash
  • Cough
  • Feeling run down, achy
  • Fever
  • Red, watery eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Tiny white spots with bluish-white centers found inside the mouth

A typical case of measles begins with mild to moderate fever, cough, runny nose, red eyes and sore throat. Two or three days after symptoms begin, tiny white spots may appear inside the mouth. Three to five days after the start of symptoms, a red or reddish-brown rash appears. The rash usually begins on a person’s face at the hairline and spreads downward. When the rash appears, a person’s fever may spike to more than 104 degrees Fahrenheit. After a few days, the fever usually subsides and the rash fades.

Measles can be serious, especially for babies and young children. For some children, measles can lead to pneumonia, brain damage, deafness or death.

What is the incidence for Measles?

Measles is very rare in countries and regions of the world that are able to keep vaccination coverage high. In North and South America, Finland, and some other areas, endemic measles transmission is considered to have been interrupted through vaccination. There are still sporadic cases of measles in the United States because visitors from other countries or U.S. citizens traveling abroad can become infected before or during travel and spread the infection to unvaccinated or unprotected persons.

Worldwide, there are estimated to be 20 million cases and 164,000 deaths each year. More than half of the deaths occur in India.

What can be done to reduce the risk of acquiring Measles?

Measles can be prevented by the combination MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine. The MMR shot is almost 100% effective at preventing measles. Shots, like any medicine, may have side effects. The side effects of the MMP shot are usually mild, such as fever or a minor rash.

What are the MMR vaccine recommendations?

CDC recommends all children get two doses of MMR vaccine, starting with the first dose at 12 through 15 months of age, and the second dose at 4 through 6 years of age. Children can receive the second dose earlier as long as it is at least 28 days after the first dose.

Students at post-high school educational institutions who do not have evidence of immunity against measles need two doses of MMR vaccine, separated by at least 28 days.

Adults who do not have evidence of immunity against measles should get at least one dose of MMR vaccine.

People 6 months of age and older who will be traveling internationally should be protected against measles. Before any international travel:

  • Infants 6 through 11 months of age should receive one dose of MMR vaccine. Infants who get one dose of MMR vaccine before their first birthday should get two more doses (one dose at 12 through 15 months of age and another dose at least 28 days later).
  • Children 12 months of age and older should receive two doses of MMR vaccine, separated by at least 28 days.
  • Teenagers and adults who do not have evidence of immunity against measles should get two doses of MMR vaccine separated by at least 28 days.