Measles: Make sure your child is fully immunized

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Measles is a highly contagious disease that can be serious for young children. 

Protect your child by making sure he or she is up to date on vaccinations.

Caused by a virus, measles starts with a fever. Soon after, it causes a cough, runny nose and red eyes. Then a rash of tiny, red spots breaks out. It starts at the head and spreads to the rest of the body. Measles can lead to pneumonia, encephalitis (swelling of the brain) and death.

Measles spreads through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It is so contagious that if one person has it, 90 percent of the people around him or her will also become infected if they are not protected.

People in the United States still get measles, but it’s not very common. That’s because most people in this country are protected against measles through vaccination. However, since measles is still common in parts of Europe, Asia, the Pacific and Africa, it can be brought into the United States by people who get infected while they are abroad.

Your child’s doctor may offer the MMRV vaccine, a combination vaccine that protects against measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella (chickenpox). The MMR vaccine is considered safe and effective.

Some adults need the measles vaccine, too. 

Most health insurance plans cover the cost of vaccines. But you may want to check with your health insurance provider before going to the doctor. 

If you don’t have insurance or if your insurance does not cover vaccines for your child, the Vaccines for Children Program may be able to help. This program helps families of eligible children who might not otherwise have access to vaccines. To find out if your child is eligible, visit www.cdc.gov or ask your child’s doctor. You can also contact your state VFC coordinator.