Text Size:

Measles Quick Facts

Quick facts about measles
Image source: CDC PHIL

Measles (Rubeola)

  • Rubeola, or “red” measles, is a highly contagious respiratory disease spread by coughing, sneezing, or simply being in close contact with someone who is infected with it, even when the rash is not visible.1 Measles tends to be more severe in children under the age of five and adults over the age of twenty.2
  • Symptoms start with a fever, cough, runny nose, red irritated eyes, sore throat with tiny white spots inside the mouth and last 2-4 days before the signature itchy red rash appears on the body around the fourth or fifth day, beginning on the head and moving down the body.3  
  • After coming in contact with someone infected with measles, the incubation period from initial exposure to onset of the rash is between seven 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 Some studies have demonstrated that vitamin A reduces the risk of death and complications and that children with vitamin A deficiency, especially in underdeveloped countries, are at increased risk for measles complications. 6 Receiving serum immune globulin 6 days after exposure to measles can mediate the severity of measles.7
  • In 1960, three years before the first measles vaccine was put on the market in the U.S., there were about 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, the CDC has reported measles death rates to be one in 10,000 cases.12 13 Deaths from measles are rare in the U.S. with the last reported measles related death occurring in 2015.14 Globally 95 percent of deaths from measles occur in developing countries, where measles is one of the leading causes of death among young children.15

Measles Vaccine

  • Currently there are two measles containing vaccines 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 products are produced and distributed by Merck. The CDC recommends children get an MMR shot between 12 and 15 months of age with a second dose given between 4 and 6 years old.18 
  • Mild side effects such as redness, rash or pain where the shot was given, 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 that have occurred following vaccination include seizures, thrombocytopenia, pneumonia, meningitis, encephalitis, full body rash, brain damage, permanent loss of hearing, coma, and death.19 20
  • As of November 30, 2018, there have been more than 93,179 reports of measles vaccine reactions, hospitalizations, injuries and deaths following measles vaccinations made to the federal Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS), including 459 related deaths, 6,936 hospitalizations, and 1,748 related disabilities. Over 50% of those adverse events occurred in children three years old and under.
  • As of January 2, 2019, there had been 1,258 claims filed in the federal Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) for injuries and deaths following MMR vaccination, including 82 deaths and 1,176 serious injuries.
  • Evidence has been published in the medical literature that vaccinated persons can get measles because either they do not respond to the vaccine or the vaccine’s efficacy wanes over time21 22 23 24 and vaccinated mothers do not transfer long lasting maternal antibodies to their infants to protect them in the first few months of life.25 26 
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.

« Return to Measles Table of Contents

« Return to Vaccines & Diseases Table of Contents


1 CDC Measles (Rubeola) – Transmission of Measles. Mar. 3, 2017

2 CDC Measles (Rubeola) - Complications of Measles. Mar. 3, 2017

3 CDC Measles (Rubeola) – Signs and Symptoms. Feb. 17, 2015

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 WHO Measles. Sep. 20, 2018

16 FDA Measles, Mumps and Rubella Virus Vaccine, Live. May 16, 2017

17 FDA Measles, Mumps, Rubella and Varicella Virus Vaccine Live. Oct. 23, 2018

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 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

26 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.

Make a Difference Support NVIC

NVIC is 100% funded by donations.
Please give.

Help educate families about preventing vaccine injury and death by donating to NVIC today.

Discover How You Can Take Action to Support Our Efforts

Support NVIC!

Connect with us!

  • NVIC Pinterest
  • NVIC Facebook
  • NVIC Twitter
  • NVIC Youtube
  • NVIC Instagram

Ask 8 Kiosk & Educational Marketplace

Ask 8 Questions

Visit our Ask 8 Kiosk to explore a variety of FREE educational materials, from posters and brochures to embeddable web graphics and other resources.

View FREE Downloads