Measles Quick Facts
- Measles (rubeola) is a highly contagious respiratory disease spread by coughing, sneezing, or simply being in close contact with an infected individual. The disease can be spread even when the rash is not visible.1 Measles tends to be more severe in children under 5 and adults over 20.2
- Initial measles symptoms include fever, cough, runny nose, red irritated eyes, and sore throat with tiny white spots on the cheeks inside the mouth (Koplik spots). These symptoms generally last 2-4 days and are followed by the signature itchy red rash which appears on the body around the fourth or fifth day. The rash usually begins on the head and moves down the body to the feet.3
- After coming in contact with someone infected with measles, the incubation period to onset of the rash is between 7 and 21 days, with an average of 14 days. The period leading up to the appearance of the rash is characterized by a rising fever that peaks at 103-105 degrees F.4 Complications of measles can include bronchitis, diarrhea, ear infections, pneumonia, seizures, encephalitis and death.5
- Studies have concluded that vitamin A reduces the risk of measles complications and death. Children with vitamin A deficiency, especially those living in underdeveloped countries, are at a higher risk of developing complications. 6 Receiving measles immune globulin, a product made from human blood containing high levels of measles antibodies, within 6 days of exposure can mediate the severity of the illness.7
- In 1960, three years before the first measles vaccine became available in the U.S., there were approximately 442,000 reported measles cases and 380 related deaths, 8 9 among the 3.5 to 5 million Americans who were likely infected with measles. 10 11 Historically, measles deaths have been reported at a rate of 1 in 10,000 cases.12 13 Measles-associated deaths are rare in the U.S. and the last reported death occurred in 2015.14 Globally, 95 percent of measles deaths occur in developing countries, where the disease is one of the leading causes of death among young children.15
- There are two measles vaccines currently in use in the United States - MMRII - a combination measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) live virus vaccine16 and ProQuad- a combination measles-mumps-rubella-varicella (MMR-V) live virus vaccine.17 Both MMRII and ProQuad are manufactured and distributed by Merck. The CDC recommends children receive the first dose of MMR vaccine between 12 and 15 months, and the second dose between 4 and 6 years.18
- Mild side effects such as redness, rash or pain at the injection site, along with fever and swelling of the glands in the neck or cheeks have been reported following MMR or MMR-V vaccination. More serious side effects following vaccination include seizures, thrombocytopenia, pneumonia, meningitis, encephalitis, full body rash, brain damage, permanent loss of hearing, coma, and death. 19 20
- As of May 31, 2019, there have been more than 94,972 reports of measles-vaccine reactions, hospitalizations, injuries, and deaths following measles vaccinations made to the federal Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS), including 468 related deaths, 7,127 hospitalizations, and 1,820 related disabilities. Over 50% of those adverse events occurred in children three years old and under.
- As of July 1, 2019, there have been 1,274 claims filed in the federal Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) for injuries and deaths following measles vaccination, for 82 deaths and 1,192 serious injuries.
- Medical studies report that vaccinated persons can get measles because they either do not respond to the vaccine or the vaccine’s efficacy wanes over time. 21 22 23 24 25 Further, vaccinated mothers do not transfer long-lasting maternal antibodies to their infants which would protect them for the first few months of life.26 27 28
Food & Drug Administration (FDA)
Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
Vaccine Reaction Symptoms & Ingredients
Our Ask 8, If You Vaccinate webpage contains vaccine reaction symptoms and more.
Search for Vaccine Reactions
NVIC hosts MedAlerts, a powerful VAERS database search engine. MedAlerts examines symptoms, reactions, vaccines, dates, places, and more.
Reporting a Vaccine Reaction
Since 1982, the NVIC has operated a Vaccine Reaction Registry, which has served as a watchdog on VAERS. Reporting vaccine reactions to VAERS is the law. If your doctor will not report a reaction, you have the right to report a suspected vaccine reaction to VAERS.
IMPORTANT NOTE: NVIC encourages you to become fully informed about Measles and the Measles vaccine by reading all sections in the Table of Contents, which contain many links and resources such as the manufacturer product information inserts, and to speak with one or more trusted health care professionals before making a vaccination decision for yourself or your child. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice.
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1 CDC Measles (Rubeola) – Transmission of Measles. Feb. 5, 2018
2 CDC Measles (Rubeola) - Complications of Measles. Jun. 13, 2019
3 CDC Measles (Rubeola) – Signs and Symptoms. Jun. 13, 2019
4 CDC Measles – Clinical Features. Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases (The Pink Book). 13th ed. 2015.
5 CDC Measles – Complications. Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases (The Pink Book). 13th ed. 2015.
6 D'Souza RM, D'Souza R. Vitamin A for treating measles in children. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2002;(1):CD001479.
7 CDC Measles (Rubeola) For Healthcare Professionals – Post-exposure Prophylaxis. May 8, 2018
8 CDC Reported incidence of notifiable diseases in the United States 1962. MMWR Sep. 16, 1963; 11(53): 1-29
9 National Center for Health Statistics. U.S. Vital Statistics Mortality Data. National Vital Statistics System.
10 CDC. Measles, Mumps and Rubella – Vaccine Use and Strategies for Elimination of Measles, Rubella and Congenital Rubella Syndrome and Control of Mumps: Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). MMWR May 22, 1998; 47(RR-8): 1-57.
11 Wood DJ, Brunell PA. Measles Control in the United States: Problems of the Past and Challenges for the Future. Clin Microbiol Rev 1995; 8(2): 260-267.
12 US National Communicable Disease Center Immunization against disease 1966-67 – Measles Vaccine (p. 29-34) Bureau of Disease Prevention and Environmental Control, Atlanta, GA,
13 CDC SUPPLEMENT – Collected Recommendations of the Public Health Service Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices MMWR Oct. 25, 1969; 18(43) : 1-31
14 CDC Summary of Notifiable Infectious Diseases and Conditions — United States, 2015 MMWR Aug. 11, 2017; 64(53);1–143
15 World Health Organization Measles. May 9, 2019
16 FDA Measles, Mumps and Rubella Virus Vaccine, Live. May 16, 2017
17 FDA ProQuad Product Insert Jan. 22, 2019
18 CDC Prevention of Measles, Rubella, Congenital Rubella Syndrome, and Mumps, 2013: Summary Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) MMWR Jun. 14, 2013; 62(RR04);1-34
19 CDC MMR (Measles, Mumps, & Rubella) VIS. Feb. 12, 2018
20 CDC MMRV (Measles, Mumps, Rubella & Varicella) VIS. Feb 12, 2018
21 Kang HJ, Han YW, Kim SJ et al. An increasing, potentially measles-susceptible population over time after vaccination in Korea. Vaccine. 2017 Jul 24; 35(33):4126-4132.
22 Hahné SJ, Nic Lochlainn LM, van Burgel ND et al. Measles Outbreak Among Previously Immunized Healthcare Workers, the Netherlands, 2014. J Infect Dis. 2016 Dec 15; 214(12):1980-1986.
23 Rosen JB, Rota JS, Hickman CJ et al. Outbreak of measles among persons with prior evidence of immunity, New York City, 2011. Clin Infect Dis. 2014 May; 58(9):1205-10
24 Fiebelkorn AP, Coleman LA, Belongia EA et al. Measles Virus Neutralizing Antibody Response, Cell-Mediated Immunity, and Immunoglobulin G Antibody Avidity Before and After Receipt of a Third Dose of Measles, Mumps, and Rubella Vaccine in Young Adults. J Infect Dis. 2016 Apr 1;213(7):1115-23
25 Mizumoto K, Kobayashi T, Chowell G Transmission potential of modified measles during an outbreak, Japan, March‒May 2018. Euro Surveill. 2018 Jun;23(24).
26 Waaijenborg S, Hahné SJ, Mollema L et al. Waning of maternal antibodies against measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella in communities with contrasting vaccination coverage. J Infect Dis. 2013 Jul;208(1):10-6
27 Zhao H, Lu P-S, Hu Yali, et al. Low Titers of Measles Antibody in Mothers Whose Infants Suffered from Measles before Eligible Age for Measles Vaccination. Virology 2010, 7:87.
28 Gans HA, Maldonado YA. Loss of passively acquired maternal antibodies in highly vaccinated populations: an emerging need to define the ontogeny of infant immune responses. J Infect Dis. 2013 Jul; 208(1):1-3.