What is measles?

measles rash

Measles is a disease caused by a highly contagious virus. People with measles spread the virus through the air when they cough, sneeze, or breathe.  

Symptoms of measles include high fever, cough, runny nose, red and watery eyes, and rash. Koplik spots (tiny white spots inside the mouth) can appear 2 to 3 days after symptoms begin. Some people who become sick with measles also get a serious lung infection, such as pneumonia. Although severe cases are rare, measles can cause swelling of the brain and even death. Measles can be especially severe in infants and in people who are malnourished or who have weakened immune systems.

Who is at risk?

Anyone who has not been fully vaccinated or had measles before can get measles. Measles remains a common disease in many parts of the world, including Europe, the Middle East, Asia, the Pacific, and Africa. 

In the United States, most measles cases occur among unvaccinated travelers who get infected while traveling internationally and spread measles to people who are not fully vaccinated in the United States. 

Information by Destination
woman in airport

Where are you going?

What can travelers do to prevent measles?

Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself and others against measles. Measles vaccine is a routine vaccination given to children in the United States. Measles vaccine is usually given in two doses. It’s recommended that children get the first dose when they are 12 to 15 months old and the second dose when they are 4 to 6 years old. Measles vaccine is a combination vaccine that also protects against mumps and rubella (MMR vaccine) or mumps, rubella, and varicella (MMRV vaccine).

If you were born in or after 1957 and have never had measles or have never been vaccinated against measles, you should get vaccinated with two doses of MMR vaccine before you travel. The second dose is given at least 28 days after the first dose. People born before 1957 were likely exposed to measles as children and do not need to be vaccinated with the MMR vaccine.

Infants 6 to 11 months old traveling internationally should get one dose of MMR vaccine before travel. This dose does not count as part of the routine childhood vaccination series.

CAUTION: Pregnant people should NOT get the MMR vaccine. Any unvaccinated person should get the MMR vaccine immediately after their pregnancy.

Avoid getting pregnant for at least 4 weeks after receiving the MMR vaccine.

After Travel


If you traveled and feel sick, particularly if you have a fever, talk to a healthcare provider and tell them about your travel. 

If you need medical care abroad, see Getting Health Care During Travel.


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