General Health

The Facts About Measles

Anthony Hudson, MD
The Facts About Measles

Measles cases are being reported across the U.S., with outbreaks in several states. Although Measles has not yet spread to Louisiana, Children’s Hospital and its pediatricians want you to know what you can do to protect your family and yourself.


Measles is often self-limited but can be serious.

Measles often is limited to a fever, rash, runny nose, and red eyes. Unfortunately, complications can happen with the infection. 1 in 4 people in the US will be hospitalized when they get measles. 1 in 1000 people with measles will develop brain swelling, and 1-2 people in 1000 people with measles will die, despite getting the best care.

Measles is highly contagious.

Measles is a virus that is spread from coughing and sneezing. One sick person can infect 9 to 10 people around them. A person can get measles from being in a room where there was someone with measles up to 2 hours after the sick person left!

There are current measles outbreaks.

In the year 2000, there were so few cases of measles thanks to the MMR vaccination that measles was declared eliminated in this country. Due to falling vaccination rates in the US, the population is once again at risk of infection. There have been 3 US outbreaks in 2019 as well as outbreaks in Israel and Ukraine.

So, What can you do to protect your family and yourself?

  1. Vaccinate

The best protection from measles is the MMR vaccine, which protects against measles, mumps, and rubella. A person is immune if:

  • You received two doses of measles-containing vaccine, and you are a(n)—
    • school-aged child (grades K-12)
    • adult who will be in a setting that poses a high risk for measles transmission, including students at post-high school education institutions, healthcare personnel, and international travelers.
  • You received one dose of measles-containing vaccine, and you are a(n)—
    • preschool-aged child
    • adult who will not be in a high-risk setting for measles transmission.
  • A laboratory confirmed that you had measles at some point in your life.
  • A laboratory confirmed that you are immune to measles.
  • You were born before 1957.
  1. Call your doctor

Please call your doctor if you are unsure if you are immune. If you think you have been exposed or are concerned that you have measles, call your doctor immediately.

What you need to know About the Measles Virus:

Measles is a highly contagious virus found in the nose and throat mucus of an infected person. It takes approximately 11-12 days (range 7-21 days) from time of exposure to start to exhibit symptoms. It can spread to others through respiratory droplets and droplet nuclei released when coughing, sneezing speaking. Also, measles virus can remain for up to two hours in an airspace where the infected person was present. If other people breathe the contaminated air or touch infected surfaces, then touch their eyes, noses, or mouths, they can become infected. Measles is so contagious that if one person has it, 90% of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected. Infected individuals can spread measles to others from four days before through four days after the rash appears.

Measles can be serious in all age groups. However, children younger than 5 years of age and adults older than 20 years of age are more likely to suffer from measles complications.

Common measles complications include ear infections and diarrhea.

Some people may suffer from severe complications, such as pneumonia (infection of the lungs) and encephalitis (swelling of the brain). They may need to be hospitalized.

  • As many as one out of every 20 children with measles gets pneumonia, the most common cause of death from measles in young children.
  • About one child out of every 1,000 who get measles will develop encephalitis (swelling of the brain) that can lead to convulsions and can leave the child deaf or with intellectual disability.
  • For every 1,000 children who get measles, one or two will die from it.

Measles may cause pregnant women to give birth prematurely or have a low-birth-weight baby.

To protect your children, yourself and others please ask your doctor if your children are up to date on vaccinations including MMR. If you need a pediatrician, Children’s Hospital is here to care for your family. Search our providers and locations in and around New Orleans here.

About Dr. Anthony Hudson
Dr. Anthony Hudson specializes in pediatrics at Children’s Pediatrics Lakeside. After earning his medical degree from Louisiana State University School of Medicine in New Orleans, LA, Dr. Hudson completed residency at Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans. He is board certified by the American Board of Pediatrics. Dr. Hudson serves as Chief of Pediatrics at East Jefferson Hospital in Metairie, LA.