A vial containing the MMR vaccine is loaded into a syringe before being given to a baby at the Medical Arts Pediatric Med Group in Los Angeles in 2015. (Los Angeles Times file)

A vial containing the MMR vaccine is loaded into a syringe before being given to a baby at the Medical Arts Pediatric Med Group in Los Angeles in 2015. (Los Angeles Times file)

What is measles and how can you prevent the disease?

It can now almost always be prevented with a vaccine, but it still kills over 100,000 people a year.

By Fiza Pirani / The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Here’s what you need to know about the disease:

What is measles?

Measles became a nationally notifiable infectious disease in 1912, when it was significantly common, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The highly contagious disease, also called rubeola, is caused by a virus spread in the air by breathing, coughing or sneezing. Though it can now almost always be prevented with a vaccine, and global death rates attributed to measles are declining, the disease still kills more than 100,000 people a year.

Which groups are most at risk?

Unvaccinated children under age 5 are the most common victims of measles and its potentially fatal complications, along with unvaccinated pregnant women. Generally, anyone who has not been vaccinated is at risk. According to the CDC, 90 percent of people exposed to measles who have not been vaccinated will probably get it.

As for the most at-risk regions, developing countries in parts of Africa and Asia where health infrastructures are relatively weak continue to face measles outbreaks. The disease is also still common in parts of Europe, the Middle East, and the Pacific.

What about the United States?

As a result of high vaccination in the U.S., measles isn’t commonly widespread and is typically a result of international travel. But according to the Mayo Clinic, the average number of annual cases has jumped from 60 between 2000 and 2010 to 205 per year in recent years.

What are the typical symptoms of measles?

According to the CDC, the following symptoms appear one to two weeks after infection:

— High fever

— Cough

— Runny nose

— Red, watery eyes

Once symptoms begin, tiny white Koplik spots may appear inside the mouth before a measles rash breaks out. This rash, which looks like small, red bumps joined together, can spread from the hairline to the rest of the body, spiking an infected individual’s fever to more than 104 degrees Fahrenheit.

How to prevent measles

To protect against measles, ensure you are fully vaccinated. Other steps in prevention include washing your hands often; covering your mouth and nose when sneezing; using hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol; avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth and refrain from kissing, hugging or sharing utensils with anyone who is sick.

The measles vaccine

Before the measles vaccine was developed, an estimated 3 million to 4 million people in the U.S. were infected each year, according to the CDC. Compared to the pre-vaccine era, the vaccine has led to a greater than 99 percent reduction in cases. In 2000, measles was declared eliminated from the U.S.

The work of scientists John Enders, Thomas C. Peebles, Maurice Hilleman, and others resulted in the Edmonston-Enders strain vaccine, which has been the only measles vaccine used in the country since 1968. This vaccine is typically combined with mumps and rubella (MMR) or a mixture of mumps, rubella and varicella (MMRV), the latter of which is only licensed for use in children 12 months through 12 years of age. The MMR vaccine protects against measles, mumps and rubella, whereas the MMRV vaccine adds varicella (or chickenpox) protection.

Just one dose of measles vaccine is about 93 percent effective at preventing measles. Two doses are about 97 percent effective.

Experts recommend children receive two doses of the MMR vaccine, first at 12 to 15 months of age and again between ages 4 to 6. All teens and adults should also be up to date on vaccinations. Check cdc.gov to learn if you’re one of the exceptions and should hold off on getting a measles vaccine.

If you think you have measles …

Call your doctor immediately. If you’re up to date on your records, you may be immune to the disease. But if you have measles, your doctor will probably recommend staying home for a few days after you see a measles rash coming in.

More online

Learn more about measles at cdc.gov.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Life

Small chickadee songbird at birdbath in summer garden.
Beyond plants, what makes a garden inviting? Fountains, birdbaths and art

Water features and bright, shiny works of art only make a garden more attractive to humans, birds and pollinators alike.

Performers joust during the Washington Midsummer Renaissance Faire at Sky Meadows Park in Snohomish, Washington, on Sunday, Aug. 06, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Royalty and revelry: The spirit of the Renaissance comes to Monroe

The annual Renaissance fair will open its doors every weekend from July 20 to Aug. 18

This ceramic charger fits right into art nouveau, or ‘Jugendstil’ in German

Jugendstil means “young style” in German. This decorated plate made circa 1900 sold for $2,500 at Auctions at Showplace.

Great Plant Pick: Sunset fern

What: This fantastic evergreen fern is a recent addition to the Northwest… Continue reading

A dog sticks their head out the window as a part of a Wandering Rover Field Trip at the Everett Animal Shelter in Everett, Washington on Wednesday, July 17, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Doggy dates: Wandering Rover at Everett shelter gives dogs a day out

The program offers people the opportunity to try a dog before they adopt or to simply get their Fido fix.

Trees and foliage grow at the Rockport State Park on Wednesday, April 3, 2024 in Rockport, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
When you get lost in WA, what’s the cost to get rescued? Surprisingly little

Washington’s volunteer search and rescue teams save lives without costly bills.

A booking error leads to a nonrefundable hotel room, or does it?

Glen Hartness books the wrong night at La Quinta through the Priceline app. Why won’t Priceline refund the booking?

Mona Newbauer, 62, pours caramel into a machine inside her store Sweet Mona's Chocolates on March 21, 2024 in Langley, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Sweet Mona’s Chocolates in Langley stirs up treats for all tastes

Chocolate slugs, whales, truffles and caramels are among sweets in the shop Mona Newbauer founded in 2006.

2024 Infiniti QX50 Autograph (Photo provided by Infiniti)
Infiniti QX50 Autograph

The 2024 Infiniti QX50 Autograph AWD crossover delivers top-notch luxury, tailored design,… Continue reading

2024 Fiat 500e (Photo provided by Fiat)
2024 Fiat 500e

La Dolce Vita, which translates to “sweet life” is epitomized by the… Continue reading

The five-passenger 2024 Mazda CX-5 compact SUV comes standard with all-wheel drive. (Photo provided by Mazda)
2024 Mazda CX-5 proves function can be fun

The compact SUV is practical and sporty at the same time.

2024 Mercedes E 350 4MATIC sedan (Photo provided by Mercedes)
2024 Mercedes E 350 4MATIC sedan

In this time of rapid change in the automotive industry, it’s nice… Continue reading

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.