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Prevention and treatment of measles

Hayley Gans, MD
Yvonne A Maldonado, MD
Section Editors
Martin S Hirsch, MD
Sheldon L Kaplan, MD
Deputy Editor
Elinor L Baron, MD, DTMH


Measles is a highly contagious viral infection characterized by fever and exanthem [1]. Infection with measles is highly preventable by existing vaccines.

Control measures for the prevention and spread of measles and treatment modalities for the virus will be reviewed here. The epidemiology, aims for global eradication, clinical manifestations, and diagnosis are discussed separately. (See "Epidemiology and transmission of measles" and "Clinical manifestations and diagnosis of measles".)


Vaccination — Measles vaccination has markedly reduced the incidence of measles virus infection and is one of the most successful global public health interventions; it prevents millions of deaths annually, primarily among infants and young children [2,3].

Measles vaccination has led to interruption of measles virus transmission in the developed world and affords protection to unvaccinated individuals via herd immunity. Measles vaccination is also important for preventing severe sequelae of measles virus infection as well as immunosuppression, which is associated with secondary infection [4,5]. (See "Clinical manifestations and diagnosis of measles".)

In low-incidence countries, measles continue to occur via importation of virus by travelers. The majority of measles cases (>80 percent) occur among unvaccinated individuals [6,7]. For this reason, maintenance of herd immunity is critical; otherwise, a single imported case can result in large measles outbreaks. To disrupt broad transmission, herd immunity must be maintained above 85 to 95 percent [8]. Two doses of measles vaccine are required in children for ongoing elimination and to maintain herd immunity [9]. (See "Epidemiology and transmission of measles".)


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Literature review current through: Jun 2015. | This topic last updated: Jul 8, 2015.
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