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Commonly asked questions about measles

With each report of measles exposure in the Pacific Northwest, here are answers to frequently asked questions.

The latest confirmed case of measles has brought up a lot of commonly asked questions especially after one case included a nurse who was vaccinated and was wearing protective gear. 

If you're vaccinated can you still get measles?

Yes, but it's very rare. The Center for Disease Control says about three out of 100 people who got two doses of measles vaccine will still get measles if exposed to the virus. 

The CDC says those who have been vaccinated and get measles are more likely to have a milder illness, and they're less likely to spread the virus. 

Doctors say that the vaccine doesn't work for about 1% of the population but it is still the best defense. Two doses of the MMR vaccine is 97% effective.

Who can get vaccinated?

The CDC says kids as young as 12 months can get the first dose. The second comes at ages 4-6. If you've already had the measles, you're considered naturally immune. 

When do you know if you have measles?

This is the tricky part. Symptoms won't show up until 7-21 says after being exposed. You're also considered contagious four days before a rash shows up. 

The symptoms to look for are rash, cough, fever, and watery eyes. 

What do you do if you think you have measles?

Do not go straight to the hospital. Call your doctor's office first so they can make special arrangements to treat you without putting other patients and medical office staff at risk. 

How common was measles in the U.S. before the vaccine?

Before the vaccination program in 1963, an estimated 3-4 million people got measles each year, the CDC says, and only 500,000 of those were reported. Of those reported cases, 400-500 people died while 48,000 were hospitalized. 

In 2000, the US declared measles had been eliminated from the country. 

For more information on measles from the CDC, click here.

For more information on measles cases in your county, click below: 

King County

Pierce County

Snohomish County