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Patient question of the week: Should I get a measles booster? Short answer - maybe.

What is measles?

Measles is an acute respiratory illness caused by virus. There is no treatment for measles.

How do I get measles?

It is spread through respiratory droplets from coughing, sneezing, or even breathing. It is very contagious and can remain in the air for up to 2 hours after an infected person leaves the room! Nine out of ten un-immunized people exposed to measles will get sick. Click on this video for a great overview of how measles spreads and what it does to a human body.

CDC image of child with typical measles rash

What happens to someone who gets sick with measles?

It causes cough, runny nose, high fever, red eyes, and a classic rash that spreads from the head down to the body, then the legs. The rash comes on 14 days after being exposed.

What's so bad about that?

  • One in 1,000 people with measles can develop encephalitis which can lead to permanent injury to the brain.

  • 1-2 of every 1,000 people with measles die ☠️ from respiratory or neurologic complications.

  • 📌Remember, this is a preventable illness📌!

I thought measles was eliminated in the US. What happened?

  • In 1963, the first measles vaccine was introduced. Before that, 3-4 million people got measles every year in the US causing 400-500 deaths ☠️, 1000 cases of encephalitis, and 48,000 hospitalizations annually

  • Since then, measles vaccines, including MMR, have resulted in a steady decline in measles cases and deaths. In 2000 measles was eliminated in the US🎉!

  • Many of us have never seen a case of measles, leading some people to assume it is no longer a threat.

  • Many people are choosing not to vaccinate.

  • This leads to pockets of the population that are un-immunized. When contagious illnesses like measles are introduced into these communities, it can spread like wildfire🔥. This is exactly what is happening.

  • In the year 2010, there were 63 cases of measles in the US

  • This year there are over 700! 💥And it's only April💥.

Am I immune to measles (do I need a booster)?

  • If you were born before 1957 👵🏼, you are considered immune to measles and DON'T need a booster.

  • If you had measles, you are considered immune and DON'T need a booster.

  • You are considered immune (and DON'T need a booster) IF you've had measles immunization per the following recommendations:

  • Preschool age children👶🏻 and adults not at high risk need at least one dose of a measles containing vaccine on or after their first birthday.

  • School aged children and high risk adults (college students, international travelers, and healthcare workers) need two doses of a measles containing vaccine.

  • If you can’t find documentation of your vaccination history, you can:

  • Get a booster OR

  • Get a blood test to check for immunity, then get a booster if needed.

Who can't get the measles vaccine?

Pregnant women and people who are immunocompromised cannot receive the MMR vaccine. Newborns are too young for the vaccine. The only defense for these people is to ensure the community around them is protected from measles. An idea referred to as herd immunity. For optimal herd immunity, 95% of the population needs to be immunized.

  • Click on the video to see how it works and don't be that guy at 1:35 🤡. We are all in this together.

Where do I learn more?

The CDC website is a great resource to learn more about measles (, but be sure to talk with your doctor for specific recommendations or to answer questions.

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