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Measles Disease

Healthcare Provider Resources

Measles in 2024: An Urgent Call to Action

With a significant number of reported measles cases in the United States and globally, this recent outbreak has sparked concern among parents and public health and healthcare professionals. Dr. David Kimberlin, Professor and Co-Director of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, has joined the Alabama Regional Center for Infection Prevention and Control on a podcast to shed light on this important public health concern. Meena Nabavi and Dr. Kimberlin discuss the driving forces behind this outbreak, its impact on children’s health, and the preventive measures essential for keeping our communities healthy and safe.

What is measles disease?

  • Measles is a serious viral respiratory illness that lives in the nose and throat mucus of infected people.
  • A single case of measles will infect up to 95% of unvaccinated people who are exposed. One case is also expected to result in 12-18 additional cases.
  • Up to 20-30% of infected people have complications from the disease, especially children less than 5 years of age or adults over 20 years of age.
  • Informational Flyer on Measles

What are the symptoms?

  • Symptoms appear 7 to 14 days after a person is infected
  • Common early symptoms include:
    -- High fever, up to 105°F
    -- Cough
    -- Runny nose
    -- Red or watery eyes
  • Two to three days after symptoms begin, you may have:
    -- Tiny white spots appear inside of the mouth.
  • Three to five days after symptoms begin, you could also have:
    -- A rash of flat red spots appear on the face and spread to the neck, chest, arms, legs, and feet.
    -- Small raised bumps may appear on the flat red spots.
  • Common complications may include ear infections, hearing loss, and diarrhea.
  • Severe complications may include pneumonia, swelling of the brain, and death.

How does measles disease spread?

  • Measles is very contagious and may live up to 2 hours in the air or on surfaces after an infected person coughs or sneezes.
  • People can spread measles to others four days before and four days after the rash appears.
  • Measles is spread from person-to-person through
    -- Coughing and sneezing
    -- Touching items and surfaces the infected person has coughed or sneezed on.
  • The best prevention against measles is receiving the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine.

Who should get the measles vaccine?

  • The first dose of the MMR vaccine is recommended for children at 12 through 15 months and the second dose at 4 through 6 years of age. Two doses are over 97% effective in preventing measles.
  • If a person has not been vaccinated and is exposed to a case of measles, one dose of MMR within 72 hours of exposure reduces the chance of getting measles.
  • Infants and children, students at post-high school institutions, and healthcare staff should get 2 doses of MMR.
  • Adults born after 1956 should get at least one dose of MMR.
  • Women of childbearing age should get at least one dose of MMR before getting pregnant if they do not have records of complete vaccination.
  • International travelers should be up-to-date for MMR before traveling.

Who should not get MMR vaccine?

  • Anyone who has had a life-threatening reaction to neomycin, any component of MMR vaccine, or to a previous dose.
  • Anyone who has a weakened immune system such as those with cancer or on steroids for a long time.
  • Pregnant women.
  • Anyone with moderate to severe acute illness with or without fever. For more information on contraindications and precautions for MMR vaccine, please go to

What are the side effects and risks?

  • Getting MMR vaccine is much safer than getting measles disease. MMR does not cause autism.
  • Organizations like Autism Speaks,, urge parents/guardians to vaccinate all children.
  • While rare, a vaccine, like any medicine, is capable of causing side effects or allergic reactions.
  • The most common side effects are mild and usually occur within two weeks of the vaccine. These include but are not limited to:
    -- Soreness or redness or rash where the shot was given, fever, and swelling of glands in
    the neck or cheek.
  • Moderate to severe problems include but are not limited to:
    -- Seizures caused by fever, temporary pain or stiffness in the joints, temporary low platelet count, severe allergic reaction, and deafness.
  • The risk of MMR vaccine causing serious harm, or death, is extremely small.

Where can I find more information about mumps disease or mumps vaccine?

Page last updated: June 18, 2024