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Measles (cont.)

Measles Prevention and Vaccination

Because of widespread vaccination of children, both kinds of measles occur much less often than in the past. However, recently there have been a number of well-publicized outbreaks in communities around the United States. In the United States in 2011, there were 222 rubeola measles cases, and 65% of those affected were unimmunized. Of the 222, 70 were admitted to hospitals, but luckily there were no deaths. In 2012 alone, there have been at least four different outbreaks of rubeola measles, including cases in Indiana, Delaware, California, and Kansas. Outside of the United States, measles outbreaks are even more common, including over 15,000 cases reported in France during 2011.

  • The most effective way to prevent measles is through immunization.
    • Children in the United States routinely receive the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine according to a published immunization schedule. This vaccine protects against both red measles and German measles. Vaccination is required for entry into school.
    • Doctors usually give the first dose of the measles immunization at 12-15 months of age.
    • Doctors give a second dose of the immunization when the child is 4 to 6 years old.
    • Although most children tolerate the vaccine well, a few may develop fever and even a rash from five to 12 days after the immunization. Adult women who get the vaccine may notice short-term aching in their joints.
    • The vaccine is about 95% effective in preventing measles of either type. That means that a small number of people who get the vaccine may still be able to get measles.
    • The vaccine should not be used in people with egg allergies.
    • Rarely, the measles vaccine can cause a measles-like illness. This is most common in people with weak immune systems, such as those with advanced HIV or those on chemotherapy. In such patients, the risk of vaccination should be balanced carefully against the risk of getting measles.
    • Women who may become pregnant should have a blood test to be sure they are immune to rubella ("German measles").
  • Both types of measles are still common in areas that do not offer immunization and in people who have not been immunized.
  • As with all other contagious illnesses, covering the mouth when coughing or sneezing and good hand-washing practices will help prevent the spread of the diseases.
  • A special immunization -- immune globulin -- may be necessary for certain high-risk people after they are exposed to measles. These include children younger than 1 year, children with weakened immune systems, and pregnant women. If you have been exposed to measles, contact your physician to determine if you need immune globulin.

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Measles virus (MV), a negative-sense enveloped RNA virus, is a member of the Morbillivirus genus in the Paramyxoviridae family.

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