If someone in your household has measles, take these precautions to protect vulnerable family and friends:

  • Isolation. Because measles is highly contagious from about four days before to four days after the rash breaks out, people with measles shouldn't return to activities in which they interact with other people during this period.

    It may also be necessary to keep nonimmunized people — siblings, for example — away from the infected person.

  • Vaccinate. Be sure that anyone who's at risk of getting the measles who hasn't been fully vaccinated receives the measles vaccine as soon as possible. This includes anyone born after 1957 who hasn't been vaccinated, as well as infants older than 6 months.

Preventing new infections

If you've already had measles, your body has built up its immune system to fight the infection, and you can't get measles again. Most people born or living in the United States before 1957 are immune to measles, simply because they've already had it.

For everyone else, there's the measles vaccine, which is important for:

  • Promoting and preserving herd immunity. Since the introduction of the measles vaccine, measles has virtually been eliminated in the United States, even though not everyone has been vaccinated. This effect is called herd immunity.

    But herd immunity may now be weakening a bit. The rate of measles in the U.S. recently tripled.

  • Preventing a resurgence of measles. Soon after vaccination rates decline, measles begins to come back. In 1998, a now-discredited study was published erroneously linking autism to the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine.

    In the United Kingdom, where the study originated, the rate of vaccination dropped to an all-time low of just under 80 percent of all children in 2002. Between 2012 and 2013, more than 1,200 children in the U.K. contracted measles, up from 380 children in 2010.

May. 24, 2014

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