Measles: What Everyone Should Know

What is measles?

Measles is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by a virus. It spreads when a person infected with the measles virus breathes, coughs, or sneezes. You can catch measles just by being in a room where a person with measles has been, up to 2 hours after that person has left.  You can catch the measles from an infected person even before they have a measles rash.  People are considered infectious 4 days before to 4 days after the rash appears. Ninety percent of unvaccinated people exposed to the virus become infected.

Measles can be dangerous, especially for babies and young children.  Pregnant women who are not immune, and people who are immune-compromised, whose body can’t fight disease, are also at high risk for complications.

Click here for more information on complications of the measles.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms usually appear 7-14 days after exposure but can take as long as 21 days. The first symptoms are usually:

  • High fever
  • Cough
  • Runny nose
  • Red, watery eyes


  • 2-3 days after symptoms begin, tiny white spots may appear inside the mouth
  • A rash usually appears 3 to 5 days after symptoms begin.
    • Small red spots, some of which are slightly raised.
    • Spots and bumps in tight clusters give the skin a splotchy red appearance.
    • Usually begins at the hairline, moves to the face and neck, down the body and then to the arms and legs.    

Is there treatment for measles?

There is no treatment.  Acetaminophen and ibuprofen may be taken to reduce fever.  People with measles need bedrest and fluids.  They also may need treatment for complications such as diarrhea, ear infection, or pneumonia.                                                                                                                                                      

How can measles be prevented?

The Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) Vaccine is safe and effective.  Two doses of MMR vaccine are about 97% effective at preventing measles.

CDC recommends:

What are the recommendations for travelers?

Before any international travel or traveling to an area where there is currently a measles outbreak anyone 6 months of age or older needs to be protected against the measles. CDC recommends:

  • Infants 6-11 months old need 1 dose of measles vaccine**
  • Children 12 months and older need 2 doses separated by at least 28 days
  • Teenagers and adults born during or after 1957 who do not have evidence of immunity against measles should get 2 doses separated by at least 28 days

**note: follow the recommended schedule and get another dose at 12-15 months and a final dose at 4-6 years

Where can I get the MMR vaccine?

Most medical practices carry the vaccine. It is also available here at the Broome County Health Department (BCHD).  Please call the BCHD at (607) 778-2839 for more information or for an appointment.

Most insurance plans cover the cost of vaccines.  But you may want to check with your insurance carrier before going to your primary care provider.   If you don’t have insurance or your insurance does not cover vaccines the Vaccines for Children (VFC) Program may be able to help.

Get MORE AND EVEN MORE answers to frequently asked questions about measles and the vaccine used to prevent it.     

Ask the Experts: CDC Experts Answer Your Questions


From New York State Department of Health:

Frequently Asked Questions About Legislation Removing Non-Medical Exemptions from School Vaccination Requirements 

Statement on NYS Legislation Removing Non-Medical Exemption  from School Vaccination Requirements