What is measles?

Measles is a serious respiratory disease (in the lungs and breathing tubes) that causes a rash and fever. It is very contagious. In rare cases, it can be deadly.

What are the symptoms of measles?

Measles starts with a fever that can get very high. Some of the other symptoms that may occur are:

  • Cough, runny nose, and red eyes
  • Rash of tiny, red spots that start at the head and spread to the rest of the body
  • Diarrhea
  • Ear infection

Is it serious?

Measles can be dangerous, especially for babies and young children. From 2001-2013, 28% of children younger than 5 years old who had measles had to be treated in the hospital.

For some children, measles can lead to:

  • Pneumonia (a serious lung infection)
  • Lifelong brain damage
  • Deafness
  • Death

How does measles spread?

Measles spreads when a person infected with the measles virus breathes, coughs, or sneezes. It is very contagious. You can catch measles just by being in a room where a person with measles has been, up to 2 hours after that person is gone. And you can catch measles from an infected person even before they have a measles rash. Almost everyone who has not had the MMR shot will get measles if they are exposed to the measles virus.

How serious is the burden of measles in India?

In many developing countries, measles continues to be a serious public health problem. India has also recognized importance of elimination of Measles and introduced Measles vaccination through National Universal Immunization program since the year 1985. The measles deaths have been reduced from 106,000 in 2005 to 65000 in 2010 and 29336 in 2012. Still India contributes to almost 47% of the Global Measles deaths, reflecting poor performance(10). In 2012 and 2013 (till 31st May )India reported 74 and 61 measles outbreaks. Most measles cases are reported between 1to 9 years. With the highest birth cohort in the world, highest number of measles deaths and relatively poor vaccine coverage, India poses a challenge for the Global Measles Eradication goal.

To control Measles country needs sustained > 95% vaccination coverage. A recent vaccination coverage survey in India showed overall 71% coverage for measles vaccine (given during 9 to 12 months of age). Accepting 85% vaccine effectiveness for vaccination at 9 months, actual protection was offered to only 60% of annual birth cohorts (71% × 85% = 60%). In other words, 40% remained susceptible to measles.

Amongst different states in India there is a considerable difference in vaccination coverage. States like Kerala , Goa, Sikkim and Punjab demonstrate almost 90% coverage whereas states like U.P., Bihar, M.P., Rajasthan report have less than 70% coverage. Least coverage is reported from U.P. and Bihar with large number of measles cases.

How can I prevent my child from measles?

Measles can be prevented by the combination vaccine: MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella). In 2005, a combination MMRV (measles-mumps-rubella-varicella) vaccine was licensed.

Why should my child get the MMR shot?

The MMR shot:

  • Protects your child from measles, a potentially serious disease (and also protects against mumps and rubella)
  • Prevents your child from getting an uncomfortable rash and high fever from measles
  • Keeps your child from missing school or childcare (and keeps you from missing work to care for your sick child)

Is the MMR shot safe?

Yes. The MMR shot is very safe, and it is effective at preventing measles (as well as mumps and rubella). Vaccines, like any medicine, can have side effects. But most children who get the MMR shot have no side effects.

What are the side effects?

Most children do not have any side effects from the shot. The side effects that do occur are usually very mild, such as a fever or rash. More serious side effects are rare. These may include high fever that could cause a seizure (in about 1 person out of every 3,000 who get the shot) and temporary pain and stiffness in joints (mostly in teens and adults).

Is there a link between the MMR shot and autism?

No. Scientists in the United States and other countries have carefully studied the MMR shot. None has found a link between autism and the MMR shot.


  • Measles and the Vaccine (Shot) to Prevent It. Available from: www.cdc.gov
  • IAP Guidebook on Immunization 2013-14. Available from: www.iapindia.org