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Measles is a disease caused by a virus. Measles spreads very easily among people. Usually, individuals who have measles recover in a week or two, but some people have serious complications.

How can I protect myself from measles?

Vaccination is the best way to prevent measles. The measles vaccine is given twice to provide lifelong protection. The first shot is typically given shortly after a child’s first birthday. The second shot is given after a child’s fourth birthday.

Many people are already protected from measles. For instance, people born in the United States before 1957 are usually considered immune to measles because they likely had the disease.

Many recent immigrants, however, were not vaccinated as children.

In addition, adults immunized in the United States between 1957 and 1968 may not be fully protected from measles because the earlier vaccines were less effective.

Here are some guidelines on the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health:

  • Children who are 12 months or older are encouraged to get their first dose of MMR vaccine as soon as possible.
  • Anyone born in the year 1957 or after should have 2 doses of MMR vaccine.
  • Anyone born outside the U.S. before 1957 should have 1 dose of MMR vaccine.
  • Health care workers (including those born in the U.S.) born before 1957 should have 1 dose of MMR vaccine.
  • Individuals born in the U.S. before 1957 are usually considered immune to measles, but they may wish to receive 1 dose of MMR vaccine to increase the likelihood of protection against measles.

If you believe you should receive a measles shot—or if you are not sure if you have had the vaccine—please call your doctor.

What are others ways I can stay healthy?

In addition to vaccination, you can help protect yourself and others from measles by:

  • Washing your hands often
  • Covering your cough and sneeze
  • Staying home when you are sick

What are measles symptoms?

  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Runny nose
  • Red, watery eyes
  • A rash that starts on the face and moves down the body

Symptoms usually begin 8 to 12 days after you have been exposed to the disease.

How does measles spread?

Measles is easily spread from person to person by coughing, sneezing, and sharing of beverages and eating utensils. The measles virus can survive for up to two hours in the air.

What should I do if I think I have measles?

Stay home and try to avoid contact with other people. Telephone your health care provider or your community health center for further advice.