Measles Virus FAQ
What is measles?
Measles is a respiratory virus that causes high fever, cough, coryza, conjunctivitis, and a rash. After a person is exposed to the virus, it typically takes 14 days for the rash to appear. There is no treatment for the measles. Medical care is geared towards symptom relief and avoiding complications.
Make sure you are up to date on your vaccines to protect yourself, immunocompromised family members, colleagues, and patients.
How is measles transmitted?
By contact with saliva or mucus of an infected person and through air particles.
You are not able to transmit the virus if you are vaccinated.
Is measles contagious?
Measles is extremely contagious. Ninety percent of people who are susceptible (unvaccinated) and come into close contact with a person with the measles will get it. Measles is spread through the air by breathing, coughing, and sneezing. The measles can linger in the air for up to two hours after an infected person leaves that area.
How long is someone who has measles contagious?
The contagious period is usually defined as the five days prior to the date of rash onset through the four days after the date of rash onset.
How do you prevent contracting the measles?
Measles can be prevented by receiving two doses of the measles-containing vaccine. The vaccine is primarily administered as the combination measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine. The combination measles-mumps-rubella-varicella (MMRV) vaccine can be administered to children age 12 months to 12 years for protection against measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella (chicken pox). Single-virus measles vaccine is not available.
One dose of MMR vaccine is approximately 93 percent effective at preventing measles; two doses are approximately 97 percent effective. Almost everyone who does not respond to the measles component of the first dose of MMR vaccine at age 12 months or older will respond to the second dose.
Are there more cases of measles than before?
Measles still appears in communities around the United States, despite it being declared eliminated as a major public health threat in 2000. One reason is that there are pocket populations and communities of persons who are unvaccinated against measles. This allows the extremely contagious disease to spread easily.
Another reason for an increased number of cases is infection from unvaccinated individuals who travel to and from endemic countries. If you’re planning to travel internationally, visit Center for Disease Control and Prevention: Travel Health Notices and consult with your health care provider before traveling.
In 2018, there were 372 reported measles cases, and 17 separate outbreaks in the United States.
For up-to-date information on the number of reported cases of measles, please visit the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention: Measles Cases in 2019 webpage or Texas Department of State Health Services.
Why do some people die with the measles?
People die from severe complications such as pneumonia or encephalitis.
Immunity & Exposure
Am I protected against measles?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers a person to be immune (not at risk) if they meet one of the following criteria:
- Written documentation of adequate vaccination: one or more doses of a measles-containing vaccine administered on or after the first birthday for preschool-age children and adults not at high risk
- Two doses of measles-containing vaccine for school-age children and adults at high risk, including college students, health care personnel, and international travelers
- Laboratory evidence (titers) of immunity
- Laboratory confirmation of measles
- Birth before 1957
If you are unsure whether you are vaccinated or have protective titers and are a UTHealth employee or resident who provided documentation at the time of employment, please call Employee Health at 713-500-3267. The providers can check your records.
Students may contact UTHealth Student Health and Counseling Services at 713-500-5171.
UTP/Insperity Employees, please contact Betty Croffie, LVN, Employee Health, at 713-486-3172 or email Croffie at FluVac@uth.tmc.edu if you have any questions.
All others should contact their health care provider to check immunization status.
Who should I call to see if I'm immune?
If you are unsure whether you are vaccinated or have protective titers, please call your health care provider.
If you are a UTHeath employee or resident who provided documentation at the time of employment, please call Employee Health at 713-500-3267. The providers can check your records.
Students may contact UTHealth Student Health and Counseling Services at 713-500-5171.
All others, including UTP/Insperity Employees, should contact their health care provider to check immunization status.
Who should I call if I think I have the measles?
Please call your health care provider immediately if you think you have the measles and are experiencing following symptoms:
- Red or Irritated Eyes
- Runny Nose
Is it more dangerous to have measles as an adult?
Children younger than 5 and adults older than 20 are more likely to suffer from complications.
I had measles as a kid. Am I immune?
Yes, having measles normally confers immunity. However, you must be sure that you had laboratory-confirmed measles as a child. For additional information on measles immunity, visit Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Measles.
If I get an MMR vaccine today, how long will it take to protect me?
If you receive the MMR vaccine, within the first three days (72 hours) after exposure to measles you may get some protection against the disease, or have milder illness.
I had my measles vaccine(s) as a child. Do I need to worry about it?
According to the CDC, people who received two doses of the MMR vaccine after 1967 are considered to be protected for life.
Very few people (about 3 out of 100) who get two doses of the vaccine are at risk to get the measles. Fully vaccinated people who get the measles will likely have a milder form and they are less likely to spread it.
I had two MMRs as a kid. Should I get a booster?
No, the CDC considers people who received two doses of the vaccine after 1967 to be protected for life.
I think I had the MMR but I’m not sure. What should I do?
There are several options. Ideally, try to find your immunization records to show that you had two doses after 1967. If you do not have written documentation of measles immunity, you should get vaccinated with the MMR vaccine. Another option is contact your health care provider and request to be checked for immunity to measles through a blood test. If there is no evidence of vaccination, you will need to get an MMR vaccination.
If I’ve never had MMR, do I only need one vaccine or a bigger dose?
Adults who have never been vaccinated and will not be in a high-risk setting for measles transmission should receive at least one dose of the MMR vaccine. Health care personnel should receive two doses of MMR vaccine.
Can I get the vaccine if I am pregnant?
No, pregnant women should not be vaccinated against measles. Please discuss options with your health care provider if you believe you are at risk.
Will it cause harm to my unborn baby like rubella or chickenpox?
Measles can be transmitted to the baby and cause harm. Non-immune pregnant women who contract measles are at increased risk for serious maternal and fetal complications.
My wife is pregnant. If I get the vaccine do I put her or the baby at risk?
No, the vaccine will not produce symptoms that can be transmitted to others.
I have proof of my two MMRs but my titers are negative. What should I do?
Revaccination is not necessary for individuals who have documentation of age-appropriate vaccination but lack serologic evidence of immunity, except for women of childbearing age who are not immune to rubella; such women should receive one additional dose of MMR (maximum of three doses) but need not be retested for serologic evidence of immunity.
What if I’m allergic to eggs? Can I still get the MMR?
Yes, the MMR can safely be administered to those with egg allergies because the MMR is grown on chick cells and not the egg white or yolk.
Can I still get the measles if I have had my MMRs?
Yes but it is highly unlikely, as 97 percent of people are protected after two doses of the MMR.
I heard the MMR vaccine causes autism. Is that true?
The link between autism and the MMR vaccine came from a fraudulent study that has since been retracted. Extensive research has shown you definitely cannot get autism from the vaccine.
Luis Ostrosky-Zeichner, MD, Vice Chair, Department of Internal Medicine and Professor of Infectious Diseases, McGovern Medical School
Susan Parnell, PhD, RN, Director of Corporate Occupational Health, Cizik School of Nursing.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Measles (Rubeola).