Overview of Measles
Measles is a respiratory disease caused by a virus. The disease of measles and the virus that causes it share the same name. The disease is also called rubeola. Measles virus normally grows in the cells that line the back of the throat and lungs.
Three to five days after symptoms begin, a rash breaks out. It usually begins as flat red spots that appear on the face at the hairline and spread downward to the neck, trunk, arms, legs, and feet.
Measles can be a serious illness in all age groups. However, children younger than 5 years of age and adults older than 20 years of age are more likely to suffer from complications. These can include ear infections that can result in permanent hearing loss and diarrhea. Pneumonia, encephalitis and death (for every 1,000 children who get measles, one or two will die from it) can occur. Measles may cause pregnant women to give birth prematurely or have a low-birth weight baby.
Measles spreads through the air by breathing, coughing or sneezing. It is so contagious that if one person has it, 90% of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected.
Frequently Asked Questions about Measles in the U.S (Excerpts from CDC website: http://www.cdc.gov/measles/about/faqs.html.)
Q: Why have there been more measles cases in the United States in recent years?
A: In 2008, 2011, 2013 and 2014, there were more reported measles cases compared with previous years. CDC experts attribute this to:
•more measles cases than usual in some countries to which Americans often travel (such as England, France, Germany, India, the Philippines and Vietnam), and therefore more measles cases coming into the US, and/or
•more spreading of measles in U.S. communities with pockets of unvaccinated people.
Q: How effective is the measles vaccine?
A: The measles vaccine is very effective. One dose of measles vaccine is about 93% effective at preventing measles if exposed to the virus and two doses are about 97% effective.
Q: Could I still get measles if I am fully vaccinated?
A: 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 are much more likely to have a milder illness, and they are 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
Q: Do I ever need a booster vaccine?
A: No. People who received two doses of measles vaccine as children according to the U.S. vaccination schedule are considered protected for life and do not ever need a booster dose. Adults need at least one dose of measles vaccine, unless they have evidence of immunity. Adults who are going to be in a setting that poses a high risk for measles transmission, including students at post-high school education institutions, healthcare personnel, and international travelers, should make sure they have had two doses separated by at least 28 days.
Q: Am I protected against measles?
A: You are considered protected from measles if you have written documentation (records) showing at least one of the following:
•You received two doses of measles-containing vaccine, and you are a(n)
◦school-aged child (grades K-12)
◦adult who was not vaccinated as a child and will be in a setting that poses a high risk for measles transmission, including students at post-high school education institutions, healthcare personnel, and international travelers.
•You received one dose of measles-containing vaccine, and you are a(n)
◦adult who was not vaccinated as a child and will not be in a high-risk setting for measles transmission.
•A laboratory confirmed that you had measles at some point in your life.
•A laboratory confirmed that you are immune to measles.
•You were born before 1957.