News / Utah / 

FAQ about measles

By | Posted - Apr. 8, 2011 at 3:55 p.m.

This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.

SALT LAKE CITY -- A compilation of frequently asked questions, and their answers, about measles.

What causes measles?

Measles is caused by a virus that is spread through infectious droplets. It is highly contagious.

Who is at risk for measles?

Anyone can get the measles. Those at highest risk are children less then 15 months of age, who are too young to receive the vaccine; people born in or after 1957, who lack proper documentation of measles immunity; people who have not been vaccinated; and people vaccinated before age 1.

What are the symptoms of measles and how long after exposure to the disease will they appear?

Symptoms of measles include fever, runny nose, cough, loss of appetite, "pink eye" and a rash. Symptoms can present themselves 8 to 12 days after exposure.

How long is it contagious?

People infected with measles are contagious 4 days before the rash and at least 4 days after the rash appears.

How serious is measles?

Thirty percent of cases exhibit complications beyond the general symptoms, and death can occur in two of every 1,000 cases. Complications are more common among very young children and adults over 20 years.

What are the complications associated with measles?

Diarrhea, ear infections and pneumonia are among the most common complications associated with measles. Measles during pregnancy increases the risk of premature labor, miscarriage and low-birth-weight infants. Complications can be more severe in individuals with compromised immune systems.

Is there a treatment for measles?

There is no specific treatment for measles. Prevention is the only cure.

How common is measles in the United States?

Prior to development of a vaccine in 1963, there were 3 million to 4 million cases each year. In the years following, the number of cases dropped dramatically, with only 1,497 cases in 1983, according to the CDC. Outbreaks dotted the country in the 1980s and by 2004, only 37 cases were reported.

Can someone get measles more than once?


Who should be vaccinated?

All children, adolescents and adults born in or after 1957 should have documentation or other evidence of immunity. Lab results from contraction of the disease can serve as evidence of immunity.

When should the vaccine be given?

The first dose of a measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR), should be given on or after a child's first birthday, between 12 and 15 months. The second dose is usually given when the child is between 4 and 6 years old, or before kindergarten. It can be given earlier, as long as there is at least 28 days between the two doses.

How effective is the vaccine?

The first dose of MMR vaccine produces 95 to 98 percent immunity to measles, 97 percent immunity to mumps and 95 percent immunity to rubella. The second dose is intended to produce immunity in those who did not respond to the first dose. A very small percentage of people may not be protected even after two doses.

Which adults should receive the MMR vaccine?

All adults born in or after 1957 should receive the vaccine, while adults born before 1957 are likely to have had measles or mumps disease as a child and are generally considered not to need vaccination.

Which adults need to be sure they receive two doses of MMR vaccine?

Certain adults are at a higher risk of exposure to measles, mumps or rubella, including health care workers, college students, those living in a community where an outbreak is occurring or those planning to travel internationally.

Are there side effects to the vaccine?

The MMR has an excellent safety record. However, fever and mild rash have been reported in a very small percentage of vaccine recipients.

Compiled with information from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Utah Department of Health and The Immunization Action Coalition

Related Stories


    Catch up on the top news and features from, sent weekly.
    By subscribing, you acknowledge and agree to's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

    KSL Weather Forecast