Measles - What You Need to Know

Can you get measles if you’ve been vaccinated? Should adults get a measles booster?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced this week that 61 new cases of measles had been reported in the United States this year, bringing the number of cases of the highly contagious disease to a record 25-year high.

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According to the CDC, 695 cases of the virus have been reported in 2019 as of 3 p.m. Wednesday. In all of 2018, there were 372 cases reported in the U.S.

Outbreaks have been seen in Washington and New York, but the virus has been registered in 20 other states so far this year.

Most of the outbreaks are being seen in areas where parents have chosen not to vaccinate their children.

However, numbers of infected adults are also climbing, leaving some to wonder if the vaccinations they received as children are still effective.

Can adults get measles after they have been vaccinated and should they be getting revaccinated?

Here is what you need to know about measles vaccinations.

Which states have reported measles outbreaks?

Twenty-two states have had confirmed measles outbreaks. They are Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas, Tennessee and Washington.

Who should be vaccinated against measles?

The CDC recommends the vaccine for every American over 1 year old. Most vaccinations against measles come in a shot with two other vaccinations – one against mumps and one against rubella, a specific strain of measles that used to be called the German measles.

The vaccine combination is called MMR. It is recommended for children age 12 to 15 months, with a second dose around the time children enter kindergarten or first grade.

All 50 states require children to be vaccinated against certain diseases before entering child care or kindergarten in public schools. There are some exceptions to the requirement, such as if parents refuse on religious grounds.

Vaccination requirements are decided by states. There is no federal law requiring a child to be vaccinated before entering school.

For more information on your state law, see the CDC's State Vaccination Requirements page.

I’m an adult who has already been vaccinated. Why would I need to get another vaccination? 
The CDC says if you received a live measles vaccination in the 1960s, you likely do not need to be revaccinated. The live virus vaccine – meaning a vaccine made from a live but weakened measles virus – is very effective, providing immunity for life.

However, the problem is many people who received a measles vaccine between the time it was introduced in 1963 up until an improved vaccine was introduced in 1968 do not know if they received a vaccine made from the live virus or one from a measles virus that had been killed.

If you were vaccinated between 1963 and 1968 and do not know which vaccine you received, health officials recommend you get revaccinated with at least one dose of the live MMR vaccine.

Two doses of the vaccine, the course recommended for children, given at least 28 days apart, is up to 97 percent effective in preventing the disease.

If you received two doses of the vaccine as a child after 1968, you should not need another vaccination.

What if I never got the vaccination and am older than 60?

Most people born before 1957 have been exposed to widespread measles outbreaks in their lifetime and are assumed to have natural immunity by being exposed to the virus. But that is not always the case.
Adults should ask their doctors to see if they have built up immunity to the disease.

How do you find out if you have immunity from the measles?

A blood test can check your immunity level. The blood test detects antibodies in your body that would fight measles.

Who should get the vaccine and who shouldn’t?

In some cases, it is not recommended that a person be vaccinated – if they are pregnant or have a weakened immune system, for example. Click here to see the recommendations on who should and who shouldn’t be vaccinated.

What if I have been exposed to the measles, is it too late to get a vaccination?

It’s not too late to get vaccinated, and it may help with the severity of the disease if you get vaccinated within 72 hours of being exposed.
Talk to your doctor as soon as you realize you may have been exposed.

What is measles and what can it do to you?

Measles is highly contagious and complications of the virus can cause pneumonia and swelling of the brain called encephalitis.

The virus can be fatal in some cases.

Measles is spread by direct contact with an infected person. The virus can live for up to two hours in an area where an infected person has been. A person can spread measles from four days before they develop the disease’s distinctive red rash to four days after the rash appears.

Symptoms of the measles include:

High fever.

Dry cough.

Runny nose.

Sore throat.

Inflamed eyes (conjunctivitis).

Tiny, white spots with bluish-white centers on a red background found inside the mouth on the inner lining of the cheek — also called Koplik's spots.

A skin rash made up of large, flat blotches that often flow into one another. The rash usually begins at the head and neck and spreads.

What if you don’t have money for a measles vaccine?

According to the CDC: “If you don’t have insurance or if your insurance does not cover vaccines for your child, the Vaccines for Children (VFC) Program may be able to help.

This program helps families of eligible children who might not otherwise have access to vaccines. To find out if your child is eligible, visit the VFC website or ask your child’s doctor. You can also contact your state VFC coordinator."

For adults, while most insurance plans pay for vaccines, if you do not have insurance or if it does not cover vaccines, you do have some options.

Click here to see some options for paying for vaccinations.

What other vaccines might I need as an adult?
Take this CDC interactive survey to determine if you may need other vaccinations.

FILE - In this March 27, 2019, file photo, a sign explaining the local state of emergency is displayed at the Rockland County Health Department in Pomona, N.Y. Measles cases in the U.S. this year have climbed to the highest level in 25 years, according to preliminary figures, a resurgence attributed largely to misinformation about vaccines.
Photo: (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

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