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What is Measles?

Measles is a highly contagious virus that spreads through coughing and sneezing. The virus can survive for up to two hours in a room where someone who is infected has coughed or sneezed. If someone is not immune and is exposed to the virus, they have a 90 percent chance of becoming infected. 


Symptoms generally appear 7 to 21 days after the person is infected. They include:

  • Cough
  • Runny nose
  • High fever
  • Red and watery eyes
  • Rash

The rash often shows up several days after other symptoms. Someone is contagious up to four days before and four days after the rash appears.


Measles can be serious. Roughly one in four people who get measles in the U.S. will be hospitalized, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One of every 1,000 people with measles develops brain swelling, which can cause permanent damage. And one or two of every 1,000 people with measles will die, even with treatment.

Those at greatest risk of infection include people who have not been vaccinated, infants, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems.


The measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine is the best protection against measles and is highly effective in preventing the virus and reducing outbreaks. Children should receive two doses of the vaccine, one between 12 and 15 months of age and another when they are between 4 and 6 years old. However, the vaccine can be given to older children or adults, and those who are not vaccinated should talk to their medical provider about getting the vaccine.

In case of a measles outbreak, children who have not provided proof of immunization to their school may be temporarily excluded if there is a confirmed case of measles at that school. This is to prevent the spread of the disease. Parents or guardians can check their child's immunization status and print their certificate of immunization online at

Vaccine information

Vaccines are provided at no cost to all kids through age 18. If a health care provider charges a fee to give the shot, parents or guardians may ask to have it waived if they cannot afford it. By law, no child can be turned away from getting a recommended vaccine from their regular health care provider because the family cannot pay.

Get help finding a health care provider by calling the Family Health Hotline at 1-800-322-2588 or visiting

Protocol for Exclusions

Students or staff at schools with a measles exposure will be excluded - up to 21 days after the most recent exposure date - if they are not fully vaccinated. Based on new guidance from the CDC and Washington State Department of Health, effective May 17, 2019, those with one MMR dose will be excluded, as well as those with no doses. We encourage anyone with one dose of MMR to get their second as soon as possible.

Also, the CDC has determined that MMR vaccines given between 1963 and 1968 are likely ineffective. School staff who received their vaccine during that window would be excluded from work in the event of an outbreak unless they can provide blood tests or other documentation that they are immune to measles.