Measles (Rubeola)

  • Medical Author:

    Dr. Eddie Hooker is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Services Administration at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio. He is also an Associate Clinical Professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Louisville and at Wright State University. His areas of expertise include emergency medicine, epidemiology, health-services management, and public health.

  • Medical Author: Mary K. Bister, MD
  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Is it possible to prevent measles with a vaccine? How effective is the measles vaccine?

The only way to prevent measles is by receiving measles immunization: This is commonly given as a two-shot series that contains measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine (MMR) or a shot containing measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella vaccine (MMRV). The MMRV is not recommended for anyone older than 12 years of age. The current recommendation is that everyone receive two doses of the vaccine after 1 year of age. If the vaccine is received before 1 year of age, the person should receive two additional doses.

The MMR vaccine is not 100% effective, and this is why it is critical that everyone be immunized. When people are allowed to skip vaccinations, they put others at risk. This is why most states have laws requiring vaccination. Unfortunately, many states allow people to refuse vaccination based on varying criteria. Due to a sharp increase in the number of cases of measles in 2014 and 2015, there has been a renewed urgency to require everyone to get immunized.

No vaccine is 100% effective. In 2012, the Cochrane Collaboration estimated that one dose of MMR would protect prevent 92% of secondary cases (a case caused by exposure to another person with the disease), and two doses would be 95% effective. However, if most of the population is immunized (known as herd immunity), the effectiveness of the vaccine is markedly increased.

The measles vaccine is also available as a single vaccine. However, in most cases, there is no reason to utilize the measles vaccine alone without mumps and rubella vaccine. The complete schedule of recommended vaccinations is available from the CDC (http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/index.html).

What is the prognosis for measles?

Most people who contract measles will recover completely. Very few people who get measles will die. People who are malnourished or immunocompromised are more likely to have complications or die. However, it is possible for any person to die from the measles, which highlights the importance of becoming vaccinated. Almost no one who has been vaccinated has died from the disease.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/12/2016

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