Measles Prevention

What are measles?

Measles is a highly contagious disease that is caused by a virus that lives in the nose and throat. Measles can lead to serious illnesses, hospitalization, and even death.

Serious illnesses include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Ear infection
  • Brain damage
  • Hearing loss
  • Blindness
  • Pregnant women, infants, young children, and persons with a weakened immune system are at the most risk for serious illnesses. There is no treatment for measles.

How is measles spread?

Measles spreads easily through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. About 9 out of 10 people who have not had the measles vaccine will get measles if they are exposed to the virus. You can get measles if you share the same air with a person with measles, even up to two hours after the person has left the area. Measles can also spread before the infected person has symptoms.

What are the symptoms of measles?

The symptoms of measles include:

  • High fever (101°F or higher, may spike to more than 104°F)
  • Cough
  • Runny nose
  • Red watery eyes
  • Koplik spots (tiny white spots inside the mouth)
  • Rash of red spots. Some are slightly raised. Typically starts on the face or hairline and spreads to the rest of the body.

What should I do if I think I have measles?

  • Immediately contact your healthcare provider and let them know about your symptoms so that they can tell you what to do next. Unless instructed to do so by the local Florida Health Department or your physician, do not visit the emergency room or hospital because you may infect others.
  • FIU students can contact FIU Student Health Clinics at 305-348-8385 FIU faculty and staff can contact FIU Health at 305-348-DOCS (3627) for assistance.

You should also:

  • Consider wearing a mask so you do not infect others.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and put your used tissue in the trash can. If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow, not your hands.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water.
  • Do not share drinks or eating utensils.
  • Disinfect frequently touched surfaces, doorknobs, tables, counters, and shared electronic devices. Household disinfectants that are EPA-registered will kill the measles virus.

Can measles be prevented?

  • Getting vaccinated is the best way to prevent getting or exposing others to measles. The measles vaccine, known as the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine, is safe and effective. Two doses of MMR vaccine are about 97% effective at preventing measles; one dose is about 93% effective.
  • People should get the MMR vaccine if they haven't been vaccinated or don't know if they got the vaccine before. If you aren't sure if you were vaccinated, you should try to find your vaccine records.
  • If you are unable to find your records and are unsure whether or not you were fully vaccinated, you should discuss your risk factors with your physician. The MMR vaccine is safe, and there is no harm in getting another dose even if you may be already immune to measles, mumps, or rubella.
  • Children should be vaccinated at 12-15 months of age and again at 4-6 years of age.
  • Individuals at a higher risk for exposure to measles are individuals attending college and other post-high school educational institutions, individuals with young children or who work in child care facilities, individuals working in health care facilities, and international travelers.

Is there anything I can do to prepare for a possible outbreak?

The CDC recommends that all individuals who are medically able to get the MMR vaccine get vaccinated. By being vaccinated, you do not only protect yourself, but you also help to provide protection for those individuals who are not medically able to receive the vaccine. For more information about measles prevention please visit the CDC website.