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Measles is a serious disease that used to be very common in the United States. But thanks to the measles vaccine, the number of measles cases in Americans has dropped by over 99%.
There are 2 vaccines that can prevent measles:
Measles is one of the most contagious diseases there is. If 1 person has it, 9 out of 10 people close to that person who aren’t immune (protected) will also get measles. And it can be dangerous — serious cases of measles can lead to brain damage and even death.
Measles outbreaks are rare in the United States. But outbreaks can still happen in areas where groups of people don’t get vaccinated. Since measles is still common in other countries, people can get the disease when they travel — and spread it to people who aren’t vaccinated when they come home.
Getting vaccinated is the best way to prevent measles. And when enough people get vaccinated against measles, the entire community is less likely to get it. So when you and your family get vaccinated, you help keep yourselves and your community healthy.
Measles is a disease caused by a virus. Symptoms of measles include:
Sometimes, measles can lead to:
Measles spreads through the air — like when someone who has it coughs or sneezes. The virus can live for up to 2 hours in the air. Learn more about measles.
All children need to get the measles vaccine — and some adults may need it, too.
Children ages 1 through 6 years need to get the measles vaccine as part of their routine vaccine schedule.
Children need 2 doses of the vaccine at the following ages:
Children younger than 12 months need 1 dose of the measles vaccine if they’re traveling outside the United States. Learn more about measles and travel.
Children ages 1 through 12 years can get the MMRV vaccine, which is a combination vaccine. The MMRV vaccine protects against measles, mumps, rubella, and chickenpox. Your child’s doctor can recommend the vaccine that’s right for your child.
If you didn’t get the measles vaccine as child, you may need to get it as an adult. In general, everyone age 18 and older born after 1956 who has not had measles needs at least 1 dose of the measles vaccine.
Talk with your doctor about how to protect your family from measles.
You should not get the measles vaccine if you:
Be sure to tell your doctor before getting vaccinated if you:
If you’re sick, you may need to wait until you’re feeling better to get the measles vaccine.
Side effects are usually mild and go away in a few days. They may include:
Less common side effects of the measles vaccine include:
Like any medicine, there's a very small chance that the measles vaccine could cause a serious reaction. Keep in mind that getting the measles vaccine is much safer than getting measles. Learn more about vaccine side effects.
Vaccine Information Statements (VISs) have detailed information about recommended vaccines. Read the VISs for vaccines that protect against measles:
Last reviewed: January 2018