March 2015

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Health Capsule

Measles: Preventable with Vaccines

Measles is a highly contagious disease caused by a virus. It starts with a fever, followed by a cough, runny nose, and red eyes. A rash of tiny, red spots then breaks out and spreads. Measles can be especially dangerous to children under 5 years old. It can lead to pneumonia, swelling of the brain, and even death. The good news is that measles can be prevented by getting a vaccine.

Measles spreads through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It’s so contagious that if one person has it, 90% of those around him or her will also become infected unless they’re protected by a vaccine or “natural immunity” from a previous measles infection.

Thanks to vaccines, measles was completely eliminated from the U.S. 15 years ago. But since then dozens of cases have appeared, with a spike in 2014, when more than 600 measles cases arose. In 2015, over 140 measles cases have already been reported nationwide. Most of these infected people hadn’t been vaccinated.

The best way to protect against measles is to get the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine (the MMR shot). Doctors recommend that all children get the MMR shot beginning at age 12-15 months, with a second dose at 4-6 years of age. Most health insurance plans cover the cost of vaccines. Learn more about measles at