The U.S. is currently experiencing the greatest number of measles cases since 1994. The best way to prevent measles is through vaccination. We know that many residents may have questions about measles so we have put together a list of frequently asked questions.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is measles?
Measles is a serious illness caused by the measles virus. It is spread very easily from person to person and can cause outbreaks of illness. Before the vaccine became available, most people contracted measles during childhood. Now the disease is rare in the United States but is still common in many countries.
Why has there been an increase in measles infections?
Many countries around the world are also experiencing outbreaks of measles. The current increase of measles nationally is related to pockets of unvaccinated people in the U.S. who traveled abroad or were exposed to people who had measles.
What should I do if I am unsure whether I am immune to measles?
If you are unsure whether you are immune to measles, you should first try to find your vaccination records or documentation of measles immunity. If you do not have written documentation of measles immunity, you should be vaccinated with measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine. Another option is to test your blood to determine whether you are immune. Adults who do not have evidence of immunity should get at least one dose of MMR vaccine.
What should I do if I am traveling abroad or to a community that may have measles?
Travelers six months of age and older going abroad or to communities currently experiencing measles outbreaks should make sure that they are protected against measles before they travel. The CDC provides travel health information, including if measles vaccine is recommended prior to travel.
When should I call my doctor?
If you have not been vaccinated from measles AND:
- Have measles symptoms of fever, cough, runny nose, and red eyes, followed by a rash, OR,
- Think you were exposed to measles through travel abroad, travel to communities where measles is occurring, or were exposed to someone known to be sick with measles, please call your doctor to determine if you need to be seen. If you do go to the doctor, it is crucial to call ahead to let them know you may have measles so they can prevent others from getting sick.
How dangerous is measles?
Measles is a very contagious disease. The measles germ can stay in the air to infect someone entering the same room two hours after the sick person has left. Some people can have severe complications from measles. Luckily, we have a vaccine that works very well and is able to prevent 97% of measles cases. Not everyone can get the vaccine for medical reasons so it is important that those who can get it do so to protect others.
I have been vaccinated, but do I need a booster vaccine?
Most adults and children who have followed the recommended vaccine schedule are immune to measles and do not need a booster shot. People born before 1957 are presumed to be protected from measles. If you are not sure if you are immune to measles, talk to your doctor about getting a measles shot.
Do people who got the measles vaccine in the 1960s need to be revaccinated with the current version measles vaccine?
Yes, people who know they got the earlier formulation of the measles vaccine from 1963-1968 should talk to their doctor about getting revaccinated with the current measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine.
Not many people fall into this group; the previous version of the vaccine was given to less than 1 million people between 1963 and 1968. Also, most people do not know if they got the vaccine during this time. If you are unsure whether you fall into this group, you could ask your doctor to test your blood to determine whether you are immune. Alternatively, you can just get a dose of MMR vaccine. There is no additional harm in getting another dose of MMR vaccine if you may already be immune to measles (or mumps or rubella).
What is the Health Department doing about measles?
The Alexandria Health Department works diligently to protect the residents of Alexandria from all vaccine preventable illness, including measles. Health Department staff are working closely with healthcare providers to make sure they are ready in case measles does come to Alexandria. The Alexandria Health Department also provides routine immunization for children, teens, and adults. Please call 703.746.4980 for more information.
Working together, Alexandria residents, healthcare providers, and the Health Department, can prevent the spread of vaccine preventable diseases in our community.
For more information about measles, please visit:
- Virginia Department of Health June 6 Press Release
- Virginia Department of Health FAQ’s on Measles:
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Information on Measles:
- If you have concerns about measles please call your healthcare provider.