How to Prevent Measles

Two Methods:Protecting Yourself from the VirusMaintaining Hygiene to Prevent Contamination

Measles, which is sometimes called rubeola, is a highly contagious viral illness that starts out with symptoms of the flu such as fever, runny nose, cough, and a sore throat and then progresses to a full body rash.[1] Although measles used to be common in the United States and other western countries, vaccination measures helped decrease the rate of infection.[2] Measles is usually not dangerous for healthy people, but it can still kill: more than 100,000 people die of the virus each year and most of those individuals are under the age of five.[3] Recent outbreaks of measles have made taking preventative measures to avoid contamination or transmission of the disease of vital importance.[4]

Method 1
Protecting Yourself from the Virus

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    Receive a measles vaccination. The best way to prevent measles is to get vaccinated against the virus. This can help ensure that you don’t get measles or transmit them to another person if you’ve been exposed.[5]
    • All individuals, from infants to older individuals, are at risk of getting measles if they haven’t been fully vaccinated. Schedule an appointment with your doctor to receive the vaccination as soon as possible to minimize your risk of contracting the virus or spreading it to others.[6]
    • Infants older than six months old can get the measles vaccination. Any person born after 1957 should also receive it.[7]
    • Your doctor may give you the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) combination vaccine to reduce the number of shots you or your child needs. In some cases, the MMR vaccine is given in conjunction with the chickenpox virus, known as the MMR-V vaccine.[8]
    • Although side effects from the measles or MMR vaccination are usually mild, in some cases you or your child may have serious side effects including febrile seizures. If this happens, contact your doctor or go to the nearest emergency room, but be aware that these seizures are not harmful to you or your child.[9]
    • There are have been no peer reviewed studies establishing a link between autism and the MMR. The one study that suggested this was found to have fabricated results. The measles vaccine is safe and necessary to prevent outbreaks of this potentially dangerous virus.[10]
    • Be aware that many schools and universities require proof of the MMR vaccine to admit a student.
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    Follow up with a second injection of the vaccine. The measles or MMR vaccine is usually administered in two doses.[11] These two doses are recommended to ensure a person’s immunity and prevent outbreaks, so make sure that you follow up and get the second shot for the safety of yourself and others.[12]#*In some cases, adults may only require a single dose of the vaccine. However, if an outbreak occurs or the adult is in a high-risk group, which includes healthcare workers and childcare professionals, unvaccinated adults should always get both doses.[13]
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    Isolate yourself or infected persons. Measles is highly contagious and is spread through the air. If you or another person has measles, it is important to isolate yourself from others, especially anyone who isn’t vaccinated, to prevent transmitting the virus.[14]
    • Measles is most contagious from four days before until four days after the rash breaks out.[15]
    • During this eight day period, you or the infected person should not return to any activities in which you interact with others who may contract the disease.[16]
    • If there is anyone in your family and circle of friends or acquaintances who is not vaccinated, you may need to stay away from them to prevent transmission.[17]
    • Isolating yourself or another infected individual can help to prevent a resurgence of measles.[18]
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    Immunize after exposure. If you or someone else has been exposed to the measles virus and are not immunized, you can receive the vaccination within 72 hours of the initial exposure. This may provide some measure of protection against the virus.[19]
    • In the event that you do develop measles after this post-exposure immunization, the virus can have much milder symptoms and lasts for a shorter period of time.[20]
    • Even if you receive a vaccination after exposure, you may want to isolate yourself for a couple of days to ensure you that don’t have the virus and spread it to anyone else.
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    Inject immune serum globulin. Doctors may give some people exposed to the measles virus an injection of immune serum globulin. This shot can help prevent measles or make symptoms milder.[21]
    • Pregnant women, infants, and persons with weakened immune systems are most likely to receive injections of immune serum globulin.[22]
    • Immune serum globulin is a type of protein that is also sometimes called gamma globulin.[23]
    • Most doctors will confirm a deficiency in antibody production before administering immune serum globulin.[24]

Method 2
Maintaining Hygiene to Prevent Contamination

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    Wash your hands frequently. One way to prevent the measles is by thoroughly and frequently washing your hands.[25] This can minimize the spread of the virus and may help you avoid getting it.[26]
    • Use a mild soap and water and wash your hands in warm water for at least 20 seconds.[27]
    • Use a hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.[28]
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    Consider wearing surgical masks. Measles is usually spread through tiny droplets of moisture thrown into the air when the infected person coughs or sneezes or even if they touch a surface. Wearing a surgical mask may help minimize your risk of contracting or transmitting the virus.
    • You may want to purchase an N95 particulate respirator as your surgical mask. Although there is varying information on the type of surgical mask with which you can protect yourself from respiratory viruses, the N95 is specifically designed to protect against large droplets and smaller respiratory particles.[29]
    • If you don’t want to wear a surgical mask, make sure to cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.[30]
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    Dispose of tissues or other waste promptly. Make sure to throw away any used tissues, paper towels, or other waste with which an infected person has come in contact with as soon as possible. This can help prevent accidental infection by curious children or animals. It may also help minimize contamination on surfaces.[31]
    • Consider putting an infected person’s waste in a separate bag inside of your trash bag.
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    Avoid direct contact with infected people. People can contract measles by touching an infected person or even the objects an infected person has touched. If you or another person is infected, avoid touching them or their belongings as much as possible.
    • Minimize contact with the skin or body fluids of infected individuals. If contact is absolutely necessary, use personal protective equipment such as gloves, masks, goggles, gowns, and shoe covers. Discard these items after each use.
    • Do not share clothing, towels, bedding, eating utensils, or drinks with any person who has measles.[32]
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    Sanitize household surfaces and spaces. Measles can spread in places such as the bathroom or on kitchen surfaces. Disinfect places that may have come into contact with the virus.[33]
    • Sanitize and disinfect any surface with which an infected person come into contact. You can clean as often as you like, but aim for at least once a day.[34]
    • Use anti-septic cleaners or bleach to sanitize surfaces.[35]
    • Wear gloves to clean and throw them away after use.[36]
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    Seek medical attention if you notice symptoms. If you notice any symptoms of measles, make sure to see a doctor as soon as possible. Not only can this help minimize your symptoms, but may also prevent others from contracting it.[37]
    • It can take about 10-14 days after exposure for measles to develop.[38]
    • Symptoms of measles include: fever, dry cough, runny nose, sore throat, and inflamed eyes. Check the inner-lining of your cheek for tiny white spots with bluish-white centers on a red background, or even a skin rash.[39]
    • Expect your doctor to ask you questions about symptoms, any travel you’ve done, and if you or your family member is immunized against measles.[40]
    • If you are uncomfortable before seeing the doctor, make sure to stay well-hydrated and take acetaminophen or ibuprofen to help relieve the fever.[41]


  • Infants receive their vaccinations in the thigh, while older children and adults are vaccinated in the shoulder region.
  • Measles symptoms don't usually appear until about 10 to 14 days after exposure. Since a person who has been exposed to measles can easily take up to two weeks to start showing signs, post-exposure prophylaxis is important to halt the virus's spread.[42]


  • Note that many jobs and educational institutions may require documentation of measles vaccination. For instance, in the U.S., most states require proof of immunization before a child can enter school or a university.

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Categories: Infectious Diseases