Measles

What is measles?

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 may include rash, high fever, cough, runny nose, and red, watery eyes. 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 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 are caused by unvaccinated travelers who get infected while traveling abroad and bring the disease back to the US. Measles outbreaks happen when returning travelers spread the disease to people who have not been fully vaccinated

What can travelers do to prevent measles?

Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect against measles. Measles is a routine vaccination that children in the United States receive. The vaccine is given in 2 doses, with the first dose administered at age 12 through 15 months and the second dose administered at age 4 through 6 years. It’s a combination vaccine that also protects against mumps and rubella (MMR vaccine).

If you were born in or after 1957 and have never had measles or have never been vaccinated against measles, you are at risk for infection. You should get 2 doses of MMR vaccine before you travel, the second dose given 28 days after the first dose. People born before 1957 were likely exposed to measles as children and do not need be vaccinated with MMR vaccine.

Infants 6 to 11 months old traveling internationally should get 1 dose of MMR vaccine before travel. This dose does not count as part of the routine childhood vaccination.

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If you traveled and feel sick, particularly if you have a fever, talk to a healthcare provider and tell them about your travel. Avoid contact with other people while you are sick.

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

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