What is measles?
According to the Center for Disease Control, CDC, measles is a highly contagious virus that lives in the nose and throat mucus of an infected person.  It can spread to others through coughing and sneezing. Also measles virus can live for up to 2 hours in an airspace where the infected person coughed or sneezed. If other people breathe the contaminated air or touch the infected surface, then tough their eyes, noses, or mouths, they can become infected. Measles is so contagious that if one person has it, up to 90% of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected.

What are the symptoms of measles?
People with measles generally appear very ill. Early symptoms of measles include:

  • Runny nose
  • Cough
  • Drowsiness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever
  • Spots inside the mouth resembling grains of salt (Koplik’s spots)
  • Increased sensitivity to light

Around the fourth day of illness, the fever usually increases (often to over 101°F), and a blotchy red (maculopapular) rash appears on the face and spreads downward to the rest of the body. The rash lasts about 4 or 5 days and then gradually fades in the same order it appeared.

How contagious is measles?
Measles is extremely contagious in unvaccinated populations. Measles can stay in the air for up to 2 hours.  Patients with measles are contagious from the onset of symptoms until 4 days after rash onset.  The incubation period from exposure until symptoms develop is typically 10-14 days, but may range from 7-21 days. 

How is measles spread?
Measles is spread by contact with the nose or throat secretions of an infected person. This can happen when someone coughs or sneezes near someone else or someone touches objects contaminated with nose or throat drainage. Measles is extremely contagious, and virus particles can remain viable in the air up to 2 hours.

Who is at risk for measles?
Anyone who has not received 2 doses of measles-containing vaccine is at risk for measles. 

How do I know if I have measles?
Only a physician can diagnose measles. Call your healthcare provider if you have symptoms that match those described above before going to a healthcare facility. Many other organisms can cause rash illnesses.  If you have been vaccinated for measles, it is very unlikely that you have the disease.

How is measles treated?
Since measles is caused by a virus, antibiotics are not effective.  Currently, there are no antiviral medications used to treat measles.  Treatment focuses on relieving the symptoms of the illness.

How can measles be prevented?
The Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) vaccine is 97% effective in preventing measles infection when both doses are received. Measles can also be prevented by washing ones hands with soup and water. If soap is not available use hand sanitizer. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, mouth, cover your sneezes and coughs.

How to protect yourself when traveling?

  • Infants 6 months through 11 months of age should receive one dose of MMR vaccine.
  • Children 12 months of age and older should receive two doses of MMR vaccine separated by at least 28 days.
  • Teenagers and adults who do not have evidence of immunity against measles should get 2 doses of MMR vaccine separated by at least 28 days.

Additional Information:

  • Call (609) 465-1187 Monday- Friday, 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. with any questions.
  • Note: Immunization status cannot be verified through this hotline. Individuals unsure of vaccination status are encouraged to contact your healthcare provider, as they have access to the New Jersey Immunization Registry.
  • Look for updates on "Cape May County Health Department" Facebook page.

 For Up to Date Information on the Current Outbreak in New Jersey:

  • Ocean County Department of Health:
  • New Jersey Department of Health: