2024 Measles Update: In response to a growing number of measles cases, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is urging residents to make sure they and their family members are up-to-date on measles vaccinations. Right now, measles outbreaks are occurring in every region of the world, including the United States and right here in Michigan. Learn about current outbreaks by visiting CDC’s website. 

What is measles?

Measles (also called rubeola) is a highly contagious, vaccine-preventable disease that is spread by direct person-to-person contact and through the air. Measles can cause serious health complications, especially in children younger than 5 years old, pregnant women, and people with compromised immune systems. About 1 in 5 people in the U.S. who get measles will be hospitalized.

How is measles spread?

The virus that causes measles lives in the nose and throat mucus of an infected person. A person is considered contagious as early as 4 days before developing a rash through 4 days after the rash appears. The virus can spread through airborne droplets caused by sneezing, coughing, and speaking. Infection can also occur after touching a contaminated surface, then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.

Measles virus can live for up to two hours in an airspace after an infected person leaves an area; if other people breathe the contaminated air or touch the infected surfaces and then touch their eyes, noses, or mouths, they can become infected. More than 90% of people who have not been vaccinated or have not had measles will develop measles after being exposed.

What are the symptoms of measles?

Symptoms usually begin 7-14 days after exposure but can appear as long as 21 days after exposure, and may include:

  • High fever (may spike to over 104oF)
  • Cough
  • Runny nose
  • Red, watery eyes (conjunctivitis)
  • Koplik spots: tiny white spots on the inner cheeks, gums, and roof of the mouth (develops 2-3 days after symptoms begin)
  • Rash: Red, raised, and blotchy appearance and usually starts on the face and spreads to the trunk, arms, and legs (develops 3-5 days after symptoms begin)


If symptoms develop, call your doctor, urgent care or hospital before seeking treatment.

How long is a person contagious with measles?

Infected people can spread measles to others from four days before through four days after the rash appears.

Are there complications from measles?

Ear infection and diarrhea are the most common complications of measles. People with weakened immune systems can develop pneumonia (an infection of the lungs), and pneumonia is the leading cause of death from measles in young children.

Encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) is an uncommon, but serious complication of measles that can cause permanent brain damage or death.

During pregnancy measles infection may cause premature birth, low birth-weight, and fetal death.

How can I protect myself from measles?

Measles can be prevented with the MMR vaccine. The vaccine protects against three diseases: measlesmumps, and rubella.

The MMR vaccine is safe and effective. It consists of two doses and is about 97% effective in preventing measles and protecting against it for life. Health care providers recommend that children receive the MMR vaccine between 12 and 15 months of age, and again between 4 and 6 years of age — before entering school. Talk to your health care provider if you’re an adult and not sure if you need the measles vaccine.

I have been exposed to measles, what do I do?

  • Unvaccinated individuals should get vaccinated within 72 hours of exposure. If you do not have a record of two measles (MMR) vaccines, unsure if you have been vaccinated, or unsure if you have had measles in the past, contact your healthcare provider.
  • Immune globulin (IG) is effective within 6 days of exposure for high-risk individuals, including those who are unvaccinated or unsure about vaccination status, pregnant women and those with a weakened immune system due to illness and diseases like HIV, malnutrition, and/or medications.
  • If symptoms develop, call ahead before visiting your doctor or emergency room so they can take precautions to prevent exposure to other individuals.
  • Stay home if you are sick and don’t allow visitors in your home, as measles is highly contagious.
  • Watch for symptoms for 21 days after potential exposure. Call your healthcare provider if symptoms develop and inform them that you were exposed.

Healthcare Providers

Clinicians should be vigilant for the possibility of additional measles cases after known exposures, and are advised to take the following precautions in assessing patients with significant fever, cough, coryza, and/or conjunctivitis and presenting with a macular/papular body rash:

  • Isolate the patient – use a negative pressure room if available
  • Avoid exposure to other patients
  • Assess patient’s immunization history and for risk factors including recent travel or recent contact with person(s) having febrile rash illness
  • Obtain serum and a throat swab (the latter to be collected with a synthetic swab and placed in viral transport medium)
  • Report suspect cases to the Livingston County Health Department at 517-552-6882

The average incubation period for measles is 10-12 days to earliest symptoms, and typically 14 days to the start of the rash. The incubation period may range up to 21 days.

Clinical staff and office workers should have presumptive evidence of immunity to measles according to the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.

Measles vaccination is a part of routine childhood immunization in the U.S. In addition to vaccination of children, any adult born in 1957 or later is advised to be vaccinated against measles if they are uncertain of their measles immunity status. Measles can spread readily in insufficiently vaccinated communities.


Resources for Healthcare Providers:


Last Modified June 5, 2024

Livingston County Health Department Logo
Matt Bolang

Matt Bolang
Health Officer


(517) 546-9850


Monday – Friday
8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Closed County Holidays


2300 E Grand River Ave
Suite 102
Howell, MI 48843


(517) 546-6995