2019 was a notable year for measles. Measles is an infectious disease. It is caused by a virus and is contagious. It spreads from person to person. It was eliminated in the U.S. in 2000. The 2019 outbreak is expected to be bigger than the 2014 outbreak. In 2019, cases stretched across the U.S. and abroad.
Measles causes a blotchy red rash. It starts on the head and moves down the body. Other symptoms include:
- runny nose
- feeling achy and run down
- tiny white spots inside the mouth
Measles can be serious. There is no treatment. But the MMR vaccine will prevent it.
Path to improved well being
Not getting the vaccine is what promotes the spread of measles. The disease exists in some parts of the world. This includes countries in Europe, Asia, the Pacific, and Africa. When people travel to these places and then back to the U.S., it can spread the disease. The majority of people who get measles did not get the vaccine for measles.
The MMR vaccine is required for children entering kindergarten in the U.S. The U.S. will allow people to reject the vaccine for medical, religious, and philosophical reasons. That’s another reason measles continues to spread.
Facts about measles:
- It can spread through coughs and sneezes.
- It can live on humans for up to two hours.
- It is highly contagious.
- The disease can spread from four days before symptoms appear to four days after the rash appears.
- Children need two doses of the MMR vaccine to protect against all strains of measles. The first dose is given at 12 to 15 months. The second dose is given between ages 4 and 6.
- There are no known risks associated with getting the MMR vaccine.
- Pregnant women who need the MMR vaccine should wait until they are no longer pregnant to get the vaccine. Wait a month after getting the vaccine before getting pregnant.
- Tell your doctor if you have cancer, HIV/AIDS, or receiving certain treatments before you get the vaccine. This includes treatments such as radiation, immunotherapy, steroids, or chemotherapy. Tell your doctor if you have a brother or sister with a weakened immune system.
- Tell your doctor if you have life-threatening allergies before getting the MMR vaccine.
- Tell your doctor if you or your child has tuberculosis, has gotten any other vaccines in the last four weeks, is sick, or had a recent blood transfusion.
Things to consider
Measles can lead to death. However, it is completely preventable with the MMR vaccine. Other concerns include:
- If your child is between 6 and 11 months old and traveling outside the U.S., talk to your doctor about getting the MMR vaccine earlier.
- If you are an adult and don’t know if you had the vaccine or the measles, talk to your doctor. A lab test can determine if you are immune to the disease.
- A third dose of the vaccine may be necessary in heavy outbreak areas.
If you or your child has a severe reaction to the MMR vaccine, have your doctor contact the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP). This federal program was created to compensate people who may have been injured by certain vaccines.
If you or your child has measles, be sure to:
- See your doctor immediately
- Watch for complications.
- Rest and drink plenty of healthy fluids.
- Use a humidifier to help with a cough.
- Avoid bright light. The measles can make you sensitive to light.
- Talk to your doctor about over-the-counter pain medicine.
Questions to ask your doctor
- Can getting measles during pregnancy harm my baby?
- Can my newborn get measles from a sibling before getting the vaccine?
- Can you get measles a second time?
Copyright © American Academy of Family Physicians
This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.