Learn more about Measles and the Measles Vaccine With 270+ travel clinics nationwide, Passport Health is your local leading provider of vaccinations and travel health services. Prepare your health for whatever may come, schedule an appointment today. What is measles? What are the symptoms of measles? How do I protect myself and my family from measles? How does the measles vaccine work? Why is it important to vaccinate against measles? Who should receive a measles vaccination? Is the measles vaccine safe? Are there any measles outbreaks I should be aware of? What is measles? Measles is a highly contagious viral disease that causes more than 150,000 deaths annually around the world. Measles associated symptoms include fever; generalized, blotchy rash; runny nose and white spots in the mouth. Transmission occurs primarily through respiratory droplets and all non-immunized individual could be at risk for contracting the disease, especially if traveling to an affected area, inside or out of North America. What are the symptoms of measles? Measles is characterized by fever which is followed by the onset of cough, runny nose or conjunctivitis (pink eye). Koplik spots, a rash present on mucous membranes, is considered to be indicative of measles. The measles rash usually lasts 5–6 days and begins at the hairline, then involves the face and upper neck. During the next 3 days, the rash gradually proceeds downward and outward, reaching the hands and feet. The rash fades in the same order that it appears, from head to extremities. Other symptoms of measles can include anorexia, diarrhea, especially in infants, and generalized lymphadenopathy. There are sometimes other complications but their likelihood is generally low. How do I protect myself and my family from measles? The Centers for Disease Control and many other medical organizations recommend vaccination as the best form of measles prevention. While following general antiviral measures, like washing hands and using sanitizers, can help avoid the virus it is extremely easy to transmit. As an example consider the R0 of the virus, which defines the number of cases one case generates on average over the course of its infectious period, in an otherwise uninfected population. For diseases like mumps (4-7), rubella (5-7), polio (5-7) and even Ebola (1.5-2.5) it is fairly low but measles has a much higher number with an estimated 12 to 18 infections for every person infected. How does the measles vaccine work? On an individual level, the measles vaccine works by injecting a small dose of live, but weakened, virus into the patient. This allows the body to create antibodies to fight the virus. When an individual is exposed to the virus, the body responds quickly and attacks the virus with antibodies that are now immune to its effects. Through this process, an individual is protected from the virus. The measles vaccination is especially important because of the R0 number we discussed in the section above. In an entirely unvaccinated population, 12 to 18 people will be infected for each individual that has the virus. As immunization rates increase, that number declines. Studies have shown that in order for measles to stay under control, between 90 and 95 percent of the population must be vaccinated. Why is it important to vaccinate against measles? As discussed above, measles can be a potentially deadly disease. Almost 15 percent of those infected will have a serious complication. It is also a highly contagious virus that can spread at almost twice the rate of smallpox. Without vaccination, many children, adolescents and adults could die from the disease, especially those that are immunocompromised like the elderly, individual with diseases like cancer or HIV and those who cannot receive an immunization because of previously existing medical conditions. Receiving a measles vaccination isn’t just about protecting yourself, but also protecting your community. Who should receive a measles vaccination? Children should get two doses of the measles or MMR vaccine, one at 12 to 15 months and the other at four to six years of age. According to the CDC, some adults should also get MMR vaccine: Generally, anyone 18 years of age or older who was born after 1956 should get at least one dose of MMR vaccine, unless they can show that they have either been vaccinated or had all three diseases. There are some who should consult a physician before receiving the vaccine. These individuals include: anyone who has ever had a life-threatening allergic reaction to the antibiotic neomycin anyone who has had a life-threatening allergic reaction to a previous dose of the MMR or MMRV vaccine some people who are sick at the time the shot is scheduled pregnant women (who should wait until after giving birth) Is the measles vaccine safe? The answer to this question is a resounding “yes!” Many of the myths surrounding the vaccine and its potentially negative consequences are just that: myths that are not rooted in scientific fact. Let’s debunk a few myths here: The vaccine does not contain mercury, formaldehyde, or aluminium-based products. There is no evidence that the vaccine causes autism. The vaccine has been found to be safe with extremely few instances of adverse effects in multiple studies conducted in North America and internationally. The CDC’s measles vaccine safety portal is an excellent resource if you have further questions regarding the vaccine and its safety. Are there any measles outbreaks I should be aware of? There is currently an outbreak in California and another outbreak in Illinois. The interactive timeline below will keep you up to date on the latest developments in the fight against measles. Find a Passport Health clinic near you to get vaccinated against measles, mumps and rubella.