New York State Department of Health Measles Information Line: (888) 364-4837
New York State Department of Health Frequently Asked Questions
and Additional Frequently Asked Questions About Measles.
What is Measles?
Measles is a highly contagious respiratory disease (in the lungs and breathing tubes) caused by a virus that is spread by direct contact with nasal or throat secretions of infected people (when a person infected with the measles virus breathes, coughs, or sneezes). Measles is one of the most contagious viruses on earth; one measles infected person can give the virus to 18 others. In fact, 90% of unvaccinated people exposed to the virus become infected. You can catch measles just by being in a room where a person with measles has been, up to 2 hours after that person is gone. And you can catch measles from an infected person even before they have a measles rash.
Symptoms usually appear 10-12 days after exposure but may appear as early as 7 days and as late as 21 days after exposure. Measles typically begins with
- high fever,
- runny nose (coryza), and
- red, watery eyes (conjunctivitis).
- Two or three days after symptoms begin, tiny white spots (Koplik spots) may appear inside the mouth.
- Three to five days after symptoms begin, a rash breaks out. It usually begins as flat red spots that appear on the face at the hairline and spread downward to the neck, trunk, arms, legs, and feet. Small raised bumps may also appear on top of the flat red spots. The spots may become joined together as they spread from the head to the rest of the body. When the rash appears, a person's fever may go up to more than 104° Fahrenheit.
- After a few days, the fever subsides and the rash fades.
People are considered infectious from four days before to four days after the appearance of the rash. Click here to find out more.
Measles can be dangerous, especially for babies and young children. Others who are at high risk for complications if they get the measles include pregnant women who are not immune, as well as those who are immune-compromised or immunosuppressed (when your body can't fight disease).
Common Complications include ear infections and diarrhea.
- Ear infections occur in about one out of every 10 children with measles and can result in permanent hearing loss.
- Diarrhea is reported in less than one out of 10 people with measles.
Some people may suffer from severe complications, such as pneumonia (infection of the lungs) and encephalitis (swelling of the brain). They may need to be hospitalized and could die. Here are some facts about complications in children and pregnant women:
- As many as one out of every 20 children with measles gets pneumonia, the most common cause of death from measles in young children.
- About one child out of every 1,000 who get measles will develop encephalitis (swelling of the brain) that can lead to convulsions and can leave the child deaf or with intellectual disability.
- For every 1,000 children who get measles, one or two will die from it.
- Measles may cause pregnant woman to give birth prematurely, or have a low-birth-weight baby.
Rare Long-term Complications
Subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE) is a very rare, but fatal disease of the central nervous system that results from a measles virus infection acquired earlier in life. SSPE generally develops 7 to 10 years after a person has measles, even though the person seems to have fully recovered from the illness.
For more information click here.
To prevent the spread of illness, the Department is advising individuals who may have been exposed and who have symptoms consistent with measles to contact their health care provider, a local clinic, or a local emergency department before going for care. This will help to prevent others at these facilities from being exposed to the illness. Residents who have been asked by a health care provider to "watch for measles", or who are otherwise ill – including flu-like symptoms, are advised to stay home and not go out in public.
The Measles Vaccine
A safe and effective measles vaccine that can prevent suffering and death has been available for more than 50 years. For more information click here.
High community vaccination rates help protect people who cannot get vaccinated because they are too young or have specific health conditions.
MMR vaccines are available at local health care providers or by calling a local federally qualified health center, such as Refuah in Fallsburg and Hudson River Health Care in Monticello. The federally qualified health centers see patients on a sliding fee scale and by appointment. They may require patients new to their centers to have a well visit first, before a vaccine can be given.
Measles Vaccine Recommendations
Two doses of the MMR vaccine are recommended for maximum protection. One dose of the MMR vaccines can offer 93% protection from the measles. Two doses of the MMR vaccine can offer 97% protection from the measles. Typically, the first dose of MMR vaccine is given at 12-15 months of age and the second dose is given at four to six years of age (age of school entry), although individuals may also be vaccinated later in life.
Measles in Sullivan County
There have been two confirmed cases of measles in Sullivan County residents since March 14, 2019 who had exposure to other individuals with confirmed measles in NYC. The contagious period has passed.
Due to the current measles outbreak in neighboring counties of Orange, Rockland, Westchester and parts of New York City (Williamsburg, Borough Park and Brooklyn), and with the anticipation of a large influx of visitors for the summer season from these areas of the state where outbreaks are ongoing, the Sullivan County Department of Public Health recommends the following:
- If your child is 12-15 months old or 4-5 years old and is behind in immunizations or has only received one MMR and is age 4, you should get your child up to date on their MMR immunization now.
- Any adult who has not received their first MMR vaccine yet should get their first MMR vaccine now.
- If adults or children ages 5-18 are unsure if they have had two MMR vaccinations or are immune to measles, call your health care provider to ask if a titer can be drawn to determine your immunity.
- Sullivan County Public Health Services and your health care provider can look up your child's immunization records if they were entered by your provider in the New York State Immunization Information System (NYSIIS).
Parents whose children who are uninsured or on Medicaid can visit our Public Health Immunization clinic on the second Wednesday of the month from 5-7 pm or call us for an appointment at (845) 292-5910.
- Other options are to call one of the two federally qualified health centers in Sullivan County: Refuah Healthcare (845) 482-9394 or Hudson River Healthcare (845) 794-2010, In addition, the Greater Hudson Valley Health Care System operates four primary care centers in Callicoon, Livingston Manor, Monticello and Bethel.
The federally qualified health centers see uninsured or underinsured patients on a sliding fee scale and by appointment. They may require patients new to their centers to have a well visit first, before a vaccine can be given.
There may be medical reasons not to get the MMR vaccine, speak to your health care provider.
Information for Health Care Providers
- We are asking all health care providers, urgent care centers and hospitals to immediately report all cases of suspect measles to the Sullivan County Department of Public Health Services Communicable Disease Program staff by calling (845) 292-5910 after hours/weekends. Health Care Providers can call this number for additional information.
- CDC Information for Health Care Providers.
Measles - What is it? This is a video that discusses measles. What is it? How does it spread? How can we prevent it?