What I Need To Know About Measles

child suffering from being sick with measles

The measles continues to be a hot topic in our internal medicine offices and in conversation with loved ones. The World Health Organization shares that the measles is caused by a virus in the paramyxovirus family and it is normally passed through direct contact and through the air. The virus infects the respiratory tract, then spreads throughout the body. Measles is a human disease and is not known to occur in animals. The increasing number of cases has many adults worrying if they are at risk for catching the measles. In my practice, I have many patients who are looking for answers and asking questions about how to protect themselves from measles. I tell my patients to rest easy and take a big breath. In most cases, you do not need an additional vaccine for measles. 

What do you need to watch out for with measles and what should you be aware of? 

I (Ruthie Nguyen, ARNP at Internal Medicine - Ankeny Prairie Trail) walk you through the most common questions my patients ask me about the measles vaccine and receiving an additional vaccine.

What is the first sign of measles? 

Symptoms can start between 7-14 days following exposure. The first symptoms can include a high fever (up to 104 degrees) and cold-like symptoms including cough, runny nose and red, runny eyes.  3-5 days after those symptoms occur, a rash typically appears starting at the hair line and spreading down toward the feet.  

How dangerous is the measles? 

Measles can be very dangerous especially to young babies and the elderly. If you think you have measles (see above for first sign and symptoms) please call your primary care provider or go to your nearest urgent care. 

Is measles as dangerous as chicken pox? 

Measles can be quite dangerous due to the potential life-long effects which, in my opinion (Ruthie Nguyen, ARNP), makes it more dangerous than the chicken pox. 

Which adults should get the Measles, Mumps & Rubella (MMR) vaccine? 

  1. College students should receive two boosters of MMR if there is no evidence of immunity.
  2. Adults should receive a booster of MMR if there is no presumptive evidence of immunity.
  3. Students at a post high school institution, health care personnel and international travelers will need two MMR immunizations separated by 28 days if no presumptive evidence of immunity.

Should I get the MMR vaccine if I will be traveling internationally?

If you are an adult and you have not received evidence of immunity from your doctor you should have two doses of MMR separated by at least 28 days prior to international travel.

I work in health care. Should I have the MMR vaccine?

If you have not received evidence of immunity from your doctor – yes. 

What is evidence of immunity?

  1. Written Vaccine Records from your healthcare provider.
  2. Blood work showing immunity.
  3. Blood work confirming measles infection (you can not get the measles twice).
  4. Born before 1957.

Can the MMR vaccine be given to pregnant women?

No, the MMR should not be given to you if you are pregnant or thinking (trying to) of becoming pregnant.

What do I do if I am exposed to Measles?

  1. Call your primary provider’s office immediately. 
  2. If you don’t have a primary care provider, go to your nearest urgent care. 
  3. If you get the vaccine within 72 hours of exposure, you may gain some benefit from the vaccine.

Feel free to bring these questions up at your next visit to your primary care provider or see me at Internal Medicine – Ankeny Prairie Trail


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