Official websites use

A website belongs to an official government organization in the City of Boston.


Secure .gov websites use HTTPS

A lock or https:// means you've safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Heat Emergency in Boston
Mayor Wu announced a heat emergency in the City of Boston through Wednesday, July 17. Cooling centers will be open at 14 BCYF community centers Monday through Wednesday, from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Last updated:


This fact sheet answers frequently asked questions about Measles.

Measles, also called rubeola, is an illness caused by a virus. The illness spreads easily from person to person.

The basics

Who can get measles?

Anyone who is not immune to measles can get the infection. Babies less than 12 months of age are too young to get the measles vaccine and can get very sick if infected. Measles is uncommon in the United States. In recent years, many of the US cases occurred in people who were exposed outside the United States. 

How is measles spread?

Measles virus spreads when an infected person coughs or sneezes, releasing virus particles in the air. Another person can then breathe in the virus.

When and for how long is a person able to spread measles?

A person can spread measles from 4 days before to 4 days after the rash appears.

What are the complications associated with measles?

Serious problems resulting from measles infection include:

  • pneumonia
  • seizures
  • diarrhea
  • ear infections
  • brain infections

Measles in pregnant women can cause miscarriage, premature labor, and low birth weight.


What are the symptoms of measles?

The symptoms of measles generally begin 7-14 days after exposure. Symptoms include fever, runny nose, cough, red watery eyes, and a rash. The skin rash usually appears about 3 to 5 days after early symptoms develop. The rash begins on the face and spreads to other parts of the body. The rash usually lasts 5 to 6 days. 


Can I prevent measles?

Yes. Two doses of measles vaccine are usually given in combination with either mumps and rubella (called the MMR vaccine), or given with mumps, rubella, and chickenpox (called the MMRV vaccine).

In the US, the first dose is usually given to children at 12 to 15 months of age and the second dose after 4 years of age. The two doses of vaccine normally provide life-long protection. Adults born in the United States after January 1, 1957 who do not have a blood test that shows immunity to measles should get the vaccine. In general, those born outside the United States, regardless of year of birth, are not considered to be immune unless they have written proof of measles vaccination or have a blood test showing they are immune to measles. If this information is not available, the BPHC will assess immunity on a case-by-case basis. Health care workers of any age must have proof of two doses of measles containing a vaccine or a blood test that shows they are immune.

Does past infection to measles make a person immune?

Yes. Persons who have had measles in the past have lifelong immunity. A special blood test can identify if you are immune. 


What is the treatment for measles?

There is no specific treatment for measles. Most people will recover on their own. You can treat several symptoms with over the counter medicine such as acetaminophen (Tylenol®) or ibuprofen. It is important to contact your health care provider if you show signs of measles. Inform your health care provider in case of exposure so they can take the correct precautions when evaluating you. 

What should I do if I have been exposed to measles?

In case of exposure, call your health care provider to see if you need to get the vaccine. If you find out that you need the vaccine, a vaccine given within 72 hours after exposure may prevent illness or make it less severe. Some people with underlying illnesses cannot be vaccinated against measles and may need to receive immune globulin to help make the illness less severe.

Back to top