Measles is a viral infection that's highly contagious and serious for small children, but it is also preventable by a vaccine. Measles has the potential for severe complications and/or death, particularly in young children.
While measles was declared eliminated in the United States in 2000, it is still common around the world, with approximately 20 million cases and nearly 150,000 deaths each year. Measles can come into our country easily through visitors or returning Americans who have traveled abroad and brought it back.Linda Fu, MD, MS
, a pediatrician and Director of Immunization Quality Improvement at Children’s National Health System, talks about some of the most important things parents need to know about the measles.
Five important facts to know:
How Can Parents Protect Children from the Measles?
- One in 10 people who are not vaccinated and are exposed to a single person with measles will become infected.
- Measles spreads through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. In fact, even if you're not right next to someone with measles who’s sneezing or coughing, you can still be exposed since the live virus can linger in the air and also on surfaces two hours later.
- High vaccination rates in the United States virtually eliminated measles by the year 2000. However, in recent years, we have seen an increase in measles cases in the U.S.
- In the United States, we’ve had more cases in 2014 than we've seen in over two decades.
- 2015 is shaping up to be worse than 2014 in terms of the number of measles cases.
The measles vaccination is a safe and effective way of protecting your child against measles, explains Roberta DeBiasi, MD
, Division Chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases
at Children's National.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends the MMR vaccine, which also includes protection against mumps and rubella, for all children at age 12–15 months, with a second dose before the start of kindergarten or at age 4–6 years old. Two doses are also recommended for healthcare providers and post-high school-aged young people or students headed off to college. Learn more about the CDC guidelines
for the measles vaccination.
If you’re unsure if you or other family members are protected against measles, try to find your vaccination records or written documentation of measles immunity
. Your doctor can also test your immunity through a simple blood test.
Learn more about measles