Measles

Photo of measles rash

Measles is one of the most contagious of all diseases:

  • The measles virus stays in the air for up to two hours after an infected person leaves an area.
  • About nine in 10 people with close contact to a person with measles will get the disease if they are not vaccinated.

Measles is preventable when people get vaccinated. Keeping measles immunization levels high in our communities is critical to preventing measles outbreaks. Measles is still common in many other countries and may be brought into the United States by unvaccinated travelers.

Even though measles was declared eliminated in the United States in the year 2000, outbreaks still happen in communities with low immunization rates. That is why efforts to make sure people are fully vaccinated continue to this day.

What are the symptoms of measles?

Symptoms of measles show up about seven to 14 days after a person is exposed to measles. Symptoms include:

  • High fever (usually the first symptom)
  • Cough
  • Runny nose
  • Red, watery eyes
  • Rash (usually appears two to three days after the fever begins and lasts about five or six days. The rash begins at the hairline, moves to the face and neck and then down the body).
Am I protected against measles?

You are protected from measles if any of the following apply:

  1. You were born before 1957 or
  2. You have laboratory confirmed evidence of immunity to measles  or
  3. You have documentation of measles vaccination. Check the table below for the recommended vaccine dosage based on age:
Age Dose of measles vaccine (includes MMR)
Children 12 months through 4 years of age 1 dose
School-aged children (grades K-12) 2 doses
Adults at high risk (students at post-high school education institutions, healthcare personnel and international travelers) 2 doses
All other adults*  1 dose
International travelers that are infants aged 6-11 months 1 dose
International travelers that are older than 12 months, but born during or after 1957 2 doses

*Adults born during or after 1957:

  • If you got the measles vaccine sometime between 1963-1967, you may have gotten an early version of the vaccine that was not effective. This early version was made from an inactivated virus. Check with your doctor about being revaccinated with at least one dose of MMR.
  • If you were vaccinated with an unknown type of measles vaccine or you cannot provide documentation of vaccination, check with your doctor about being vaccinated with at least one dose of MMR.

Still wondering if you are protected? Check with your doctor.

For more information, read about measles protection from CDC.

Where can I get the measles vaccine?

Call your health care provider to get the measles vaccine. If you don’t have health insurance and are under the age of 65, contact your Local Health Office to get information about their free immunization clinics.

Is the measles vaccine safe?

Yes, the measles vaccine (included in the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, or "MMR") is very safe and it is very effective at protecting you from measles. Vaccines, like any medicine, can have side effects such as soreness or swelling where the shot was given. But most children who get the MMR shot have no side effects. Learn more about the vaccine.

What should I do if I think I've been exposed to measles?

Immediately call your doctor to let them know you may have been exposed to someone who has measles. They will let you know what steps to take next.

How serious is measles?

Measles is a serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and even death. Measles is deadly in one or two out of 1,000 children who become infected. Measles is especially severe in people with weak immune systems. Many people with measles have complications like:

  • Diarrhea
  • Ear infections
  • Pneumonia
  • Acute encephalitis, or a brain infection that can lead to permanent brain damage
  • In rare cases, a fatal disease that develops seven to 10 years after measles infection, called subacute sclerosing panencephalitis
  • Getting measles during pregnancy increases the risk of premature labor, miscarriage and low birth weight infants
How is measles spread?

Measles is highly contagious. It is spread through the air when people who have measles cough, breathe or sneeze. Measles can remain in the air for up to two hours after an infected person leaves the area.

Is there treatment for measles?

There is no treatment for measles. People with measles need bed rest, fluids and control of fever. They may also need treatment for complications.

How long is a person with measles contagious?

Someone with measles can pass it to others from four days before the rash appears to four days after the rash appears. Before someone even knows they’re sick, they can spread measles to other people.

I’m traveling to another country. What should I do to prepare?

Before you travel, tell your doctor where you are traveling. Babies and children may need measles vaccination at a younger age than usual. After you travel, call your doctor if anyone gets a fever and rash within three weeks of returning from your trip. Describe where you traveled.

My child is attending summer camp in Vermont. What should I do to prepare?

There are no state vaccination requirements for attending summer camp but camps may have their own. The Health Department recommends that campers and staff receive the recommended dose(s) of MMR vaccine prior to arrival and bring documentation with them.

I operate a summer camp in Vermont. What can I do to limit the risk of measles?

There are no state vaccination requirements for campers or staff but camps may enact their own. Two doses of MMR vaccine are recommended for all school age children. All adults born in 1957 or later should have at least one dose. The Health Department recommends summer camps maintain a list of those with and without documentation of MMR vaccination. This documentation will aid in controlling the spread of disease and avoid quarantining or excluding campers in the event that an outbreak occurs.  

In This Section

This page offers information and resources for providers about preventing, suspecting and testing for measles.