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Safety & Prevention

Measles is one of the world's most highly contagious viral diseases. For years, measles has been rare in the United States, thanks to immunization.  But recently, that has changed. With the number of measles cases on the rise, it is vital for parents and caregivers to be well informed on ways they can protect their children.

Precautions for international travel:

Immunizations against diseases such as measles are especially important when your family travels internationally. Even though endemic (widespread outbreak) measles was eliminated from the U.S. in 2000, travelers returning from or visiting from other countries have been linked to most of the 222 cases of measles reported in the US in 2011. Because outbreaks do occur, it is important for your child to be fully immunized and protected.

The following international measles outbreaks were reported in 2011: 

  • France: over 14,000 cases
  • Italy: over 4,300 cases
  • Spain: over 1,600 cases
  • Germany: over 1,480 cases
  • England and Wales: over 850 cases
  • Quebec, Canada: over 740 cases

What parents should know:   

  • Be sure your child’s immunizations are up-to-date. Children should get 2 doses of the MMR vaccine:
    • First Dose: 12-15 months of age
    • Second Dose: 4-6 years of age (may be given earlier, if at least 28 days after the 1st dose)
  • The measles virus can stay in the air for up to 2 hours after a person with measles has left. 
  • Measles is contagious for 4 days before a rash develops until 4 days after it goes away.
  • Tell your pediatrician if you are planning to travel outside the country--including Europe. Some infants younger than 12 months should get a dose of MMR if they are traveling out of the country. (This dose will not count toward their routine series.)  
  • Infants are at risk for measles before they get their first MMR shot. A few toddlers and preschoolers are still at risk for measles because they are only partially immune after they get their first MMR shot (until they get their booster dose). Parents can protect their children by asking if the people they will be visiting have been vaccinated.
  • Keep your child away from other children who have a high fever and/or rash. 
  • Call your pediatrician immediately if you think your child has been exposed to measles.  

Measles in the news:

In the last year, people have been exposed to measles in places that we all live, work, and play. Most start with travel from another country and spread.

The following list of articles detail cases of recent measles outbreaks in the U.S. and abroad:  

  • An infant with measles in New York could have exposed others at a local mall. Read article
  • Five children in a family with measles could have infected others who had contact with them at a local library. Read article
  • A 27-year-old passenger who traveled from the United Kingdom could have infected travelers at airports in Washington, DC, Denver, and Albuquerque. Read article 
  • Fourteen cases have been linked to 2 visitors to the Super Bowl Village in Indianapolis. Read article
  • Three cases of measles in a Pennsylvania school district have been linked to a foreign exchange student from France. Read article
  • An infant in Washington recently returned from a trip with his family to India and then infected an unvaccinated school-age child at the pediatrician’s office. Read article
  • A junior high student in Utah traveled to Poland and has been linked to 9 cases, almost all in children not vaccinated against measles. Read article
  • Thousands of people were exposed at the New England Aquarium in Boston when a 17-year-old volunteer was contagious with measles. Read article 

For more information:

Visit the CDC’s Measles website for lots of useful information, including:


Last Updated
American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright © 2012)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.