Update on Measles for Parents and School Staff

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News release from Arlington Public Schools.

This month, the first case of measles was reported in Virginia. The Arlington Public Schools School Health Bureau has provided an update for its staff, which may also be useful to staff and parents in other school districts.

To date, measles has been seen in 23 states in 2019. Measles is a virus that spreads very easily. If one person has measles, 9 out of 10 people around him or her will get it, if they have not been vaccinated or are not immune.

Measles spreads easily when a sick person coughs or sneezes. You can catch measles by breathing contaminated air or touching a contaminated surface and then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. The virus can stay in the air and make you sick for up to 2 hours after someone with measles has left the room. Measles has nearly disappeared in the U.S. due to the measles vaccine, but the disease is common in many parts of the world. In 2019, there have already been the largest number of measles cases in the U.S. in 25 years.  Recent outbreaks have been linked to unvaccinated travelers bringing the disease from another country, with measles then spreading in communities with large numbers of unvaccinated children.

Common symptoms include fever, runny nose, cough, sore throat, and red, watery eyes. After 3–7 days of these symptoms, a red rash develops that usually begins on the face and then spreads to the rest of the body. A person with measles can spread the disease 4 days before the rash appears until 4 days after. Some people, especially very young children who have not yet been vaccinated, are at high risk for serious complications. These include lung infection (pneumonia), brain inflammation (encephalitis), deafness, and even death.

The best way to prevent measles is by getting vaccinated!You can prevent measles with a vaccine that provides protection against 3 diseases: measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR). The MMR vaccine is proven to be very safe and effective.The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that children get one dose of MMR between 12 and 15 months, and a second dose between 4 and 6 years. Children, teenagers and adults who have not been vaccinated and have no documented evidence of ever having measles should also get the MMR, including before traveling outside the United States.

1. Vaccination record showing 2 MMR vaccines (for children)

  • Vaccines must be spaced at least 28-days apart
  • First vaccine must have been given on or after the 1st birthday

2. Laboratory evidence of immunity or laboratory confirmation of measles

  • This is done through a titer blood test – in which blood is drawn and tested for sufficient antibodies to measles
  • Note – many people (especially those born before 1957 prior to vaccination availability) report that they are immune because they had the measles. Laboratory documentation (titer blood test) of immunity is required to be certain.

Healthcare providers should not accept reports of having the disease or verbal reports of having vaccinations as evidence of immunity.

1. Student with suspected measles should stay out of school until cleared by health care provider to return to school

  • Student is contagious up to 4 days after onset of rash

2. Any student or staff member who does not have documented immunity to measles who may have been exposed

  • For 21 days after exposure to measles case (this is the incubation period for measles)
  • During this time, excluded student or staff member should do the following:
  • Stay at home – must not be in any public places
  • Contact healthcare provider about possible measles symptoms before going to office, clinic, urgent care or hospital

The exposed student/staff should be excluded for 21 days after exposure, even if they receive the MMR vaccine or immune globulin during this time.


  • Remind parents to keep their children at home whenever they are sick
  • Be aware of the symptoms of measles and notify the clinic staff any time a student or staff member displays symptoms consistent with measles
  • Notify the clinic immediately if a parent tells you that their child has suspected or diagnosed measles
  • Be aware of your immunization history and obtain a written copy of your vaccine record or blood titers
  • If you aren’t vaccinated – it’s not too late. Vaccines are the best protection against measles!

Wash your hands often throughout the day!