Conversation Guide: Measles

Protect yourself from Measles

Navigating Conversations about Measles

Measles is a serious illness that is easy to spread to others; outbreaks have happened all over the world, including in the United States. As high-profile outbreaks are reported in the news, Afghan newcomers may understandably have questions about the illness and how to protect themselves and their families. Service providers can confidently answer questions about measles with this conversation guide.

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What is measles?

Measles is an infection and illness caused by a virus (a “germ”). Measles spreads through the air from one person to another. Measles is extremely contagious, meaning it is very easy to “catch” if you are not immune and are near, or even in the same room with someone who is ill. 

What happens if I get measles?

People with measles can get very sick and even die. About 7-14 days after breathing in measles germs, people get sick with symptoms.  These can include things like a:

  • High fever
  • Cough
  • Runny nose
  • Red, watery eyes

About 3-5 days after their first symptoms most people will get a rash. The rash begins as flat red spots on the face and spreads downward to the neck, body, arms, legs, and feet.

Is measles dangerous?

Yes, measles is a dangerous illness. Some people who have measles need to be hospitalized and some even die. Measles is especially dangerous for:

  • Children under 5 years old
  • Children who do not have good nutrition
  • Older adults
  • Pregnant women
  • People with problems with their immune system like HIV, who are being treated for cancer or have had an organ transplant

What are the serious health problems that can come from measles?

Some people with measles develop serious health problems, such as:

  • Severe diarrhea
  • Breathing problems
  • Infection of the lungs (Pneumonia)
  • Swelling of the brain and coma (Encephalitis)
  • Blindness

Is there a cure for measles?

No, there is no medication or cure for measles, which is why it is very important to prevent measles by getting vaccinated.

While there is no cure, a person with measles can feel better if they:

  • Drink lots of water
  • Eat healthy food
  • Take extra vitamins as prescribed by a doctor

How can I protect my family from measles?

Being vaccinated against measles is the best way to prevent getting sick with measles or spreading it to other people. The vaccine is safe for adults, children, and babies.

Washing hands and surfaces often, staying home when sick, and social distancing if there are measles cases in your area are other ways to stay safe. 

I already got a measles vaccine. Can I still get measles?

It is highly unlikely that you will get measles if you have been vaccinated (have had two vaccines in your lifetime), but if you do get it, the illness will be less severe. If you have had vaccine, you are also less likely that you will spread measles to others. 

Will I need to get any additional vaccine doses or boosters?

It takes two doses of a measles vaccine to be protected. 

I was around someone who had measles but I don’t feel sick. What should I do?

Contact a healthcare provider and tell them you were around someone who had measles. If you have not been vaccinated, you may be able to prevent measles by getting a vaccine right away.

If you are pregnant or in a group at high risk for severe measles, you should immediately contact your healthcare provider if you get exposed because there is treatment available to try to prevent the disease.

It is also a good idea to stay away from places where people may have serious problems if they get measles from you. This includes schools, hospitals, and daycares. A medical provider can let you know when it is safe to return to these places. 

I think I have measles. What should I do?

Contact a healthcare provider right away and tell them you think you have measles. Stay away from others until your healthcare provider tells you it is safe to be around people. Drink lots of water, eat healthy food, and take extra vitamins to feel better.


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