Measles (Rubeola)

Measles Watch: There are no cases of measles in Montana at this time. 

Measles travel graphic

What You Need to Know

Measles is a serious respiratory disease caused by a virus. Measles starts with a fever. Soon after, it causes a cough, runny nose, and red eyes. Then a rash of tiny, red spots breaks out. It starts at the head and spreads to the rest of the body. The rash can last for a week, and coughing can last for 10 days. CDC: Measles cases and outbreaks 

Measles is highly contagious and spreads through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It is so contagious that if one person has it, 9 out of 10 people around him or her will also become infected if they are not protected.

  • You can get measles just by being in a room where a person with measles has been, even up to two hours after that person has left.
  • An infected person can spread measles to others even before he or she develops symptoms—from four days before they develop the measles rash through four days afterward.
  • For more information on transmission, see: CDC: Measles transmission

If you’re not protected against measles and think you might have been exposed to someone with measles:

  • Stay home. Do not go straight to the doctor. Instead, call ahead to inform a healthcare professional of your possible exposure so you can get instructions about how to avoid exposing others.
  • If you’re not already protected, get a measles vaccine.
    • If given within 72 hours of initial exposure, MMR vaccine may provide some protection or lessen the severity of disease.
    • Except in healthcare settings, unvaccinated people who receive their first dose of MMR vaccine within 72 hours after exposure may return immediately to childcare, school, or work.

Measles can cause serious health complications, such as pneumonia or encephalitis, and even death.

  • Children younger than 5 years of age and adults older than 20 years of age are at high risk of getting a serious case of measles.  When you get vaccinated, you also protect others around you who are at high risk for complications but can’t get vaccinated because they are too young or have a health condition.
  • About 1 in 4 unvaccinated people in the U.S. who get measles will be hospitalized; 1 out of every 1,000 people with measles will develop brain swelling (encephalitis); 1 or 2 out of 1,000 people with measles will die, even with the best care.
  • For more information on complications, see: CDC: Measles complications
  • The best protection against measles is MMR vaccine. MMR vaccine provides long-lasting protection against all strains of measles. Make sure you’re up to date on MMR and other vaccinations.
  • Parents should make sure their children are protected against measles with two doses of MMR vaccine–the first dose at 12 through 15 months of age and the second dose 4 through 6 years of age.
  • For more information on vaccination, see: Montana Immunization Program and CDC: Measles vaccination

Healthcare Professionals Information

  • Healthcare providers should be vigilant about measles
  • Ensure all patients are up to date on measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine.
  • Consider measles in patients presenting with febrile rash illness and clinically compatible measles symptoms (cough, coryza, and conjunctivitis), and ask patients about recent travel internationally or to domestic venues frequented by international travelers, as well as a history of measles exposures in their communities.
  • Promptly isolate patients with suspected measles to avoid disease transmission and immediately report the suspect measles case to your local health department.
  • Obtain specimens for testing from patients with suspected measles, including viral specimens for genotyping, which can help determine the source of the virus. Coordinate with your local health department with questions about submitting specimens for testing.
  • People who work in healthcare settings should have documented evidence of immunity to measles according to the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). Refer to Immunization of Health-Care Personnel: Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices
  • Measles outbreaks in healthcare settings can disrupt care of patients and put them at higher risk for severe disease. This is especially important for patients who have underlying medical conditions and weakened immune systems.