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Health Insights Illinois

Measles awareness: Protecting you and your community


What is measles? 

Measles is a severe respiratory infection that causes rashes and fever. It is very contagious. Measles can be dangerous, especially for babies and young children under 5. Adults over 20 years of age, pregnant women, and people with compromised immune systems are also more likely to suffer from measles complications. About 1 in 5 people in the United States who get measles will be hospitalized. In rare cases, measles can be deadly.

What are the symptoms? 

Measles typically starts with a cough, runny nose, red eyes, and a fever that can get very high. Three to five days after these symptoms begin, a rash will begin to develop. The rash looks like tiny, red spots that start at the head and spread down to the rest of the body. If you think you or your child might have measles, call your healthcare provider immediately.

How is 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 has left. And you can catch measles from an infected person even before they have a rash. Almost everyone who has not had the vaccine will get measles if they are exposed to the measles virus.

How can I protect myself and my child? 

The best way to protect against measles is to get the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine. Doctors recommend that all children get the first dose of the MMR vaccine at 12 to 15 months and a second dose at 4 to 6 years of age. The MMR vaccine protects your child from measles and against mumps and rubella.

Is the MMR vaccine safe? 

Yes. The MMR vaccine is very safe and effective at preventing measles, mumps, and rubella. Most children don't have any side effects from the MMR shot. If side effects occur, they are usually mild and can include fever, pain, redness where the shot was given, or mild rash.

Where can I get the MMR vaccine? 

The MMR vaccine is widely available in the community. Illinois offers free routine vaccines for children aged 18 and under through the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program. This program ensures free vaccination for all children, regardless of insurance. To learn more about sites near you, visit:

What should I do if I'm unsure whether I or my child is immune to measles? 

If you're unsure about you or your child's MMR vaccine, talk to your healthcare provider about your vaccination records. You can also check the Illinois immunization registry, I-CARE, through the Illinois Department of Public Health's Vax Verify portal.


For additional information, visit:

Illinois Department of Public Health

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention