Health Department

CONTACT INFORMATION: Our administration office at 10777 Main Street in Fairfax is open during regular business hours 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., Monday - Friday. Clinic services are not offered at this location.
703-246-2411 TTY 711
10777 Main Street
Fairfax, VA 22030
Gloria Addo-Ayensu, M.D., M.P.H.
Director of Health

Measles is Serious — And Preventable

Over the past several weeks there have been three measles cases confirmed in people living in or traveling through the National Capitol Region. And sadly we are not alone, measles outbreaks are occurring in every region of the world with health officials in many countries reporting large outbreaks.

Measles is caused by a highly contagious virus. In fact, it 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.

Measles spreads through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Other people then become infected when they breathe contaminated air or touch an infected surface and then touch their eyes, nose, or mouth. The measles virus can live for up to two hours in an airspace after an infected person leaves the area.

Measles symptoms typically begin with a high fever, cough, runny nose, and watery eyes followed by a rash. Measles can be serious in all age groups. However, some groups are more likely to suffer from complications:

  • Children younger than five years of age
  • Adults older than 20 years of age
  • Pregnant people
  • People with compromised immune systems, such as from leukemia or HIV infection

Serious complications include pneumonia (infection of the lungs) and encephalitis (infection of the brain). Measles infection can also be fatal.

Measles and Travel

Measles is still common in many places, including Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. Every year, measles is brought into the United States by unvaccinated travelers, most often Americans and sometimes foreign visitors, who get measles while they are in other countries.

Protect your child from measles Measles is still common in many parts of the world.  Unvaccinated travelers who get measles in other countries continue to bring the disease into the United States. [Illustration of a plane flying around the world]  Give your child the best protection against measles with two doses of measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine: MMR 1st dost at 12-15 months 2nd dose at 4-6 years [Illustration of MMR vaccine]  Traveling abroad with your child? Infants 6 to 11 months old need 1 dose of measles vaccine before traveling abroad.  Children 12 months and older should receive 2 doses before travel.  Check with your pediatrician before leaving on your trip to make sure your children are protected.  [logo] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Credit: CDC

If you plan to travel internationally, make sure you and your family are protected, no matter where you are going. The best protection against measles is vaccination. You should plan to be fully vaccinated at least 2 weeks before you leave for your trip.

Measles Prevention

Vaccines help teach the immune system how to defend against germs, helping to build up natural defenses. They can prevent common diseases that used to seriously harm or even kill infants, children, and adults — like measles.

The MMR vaccine protects against three diseases: measles, mumps, and rubella. It is safe and highly effective: two doses are about 97% effective at preventing measles if exposed to the virus.

See the recommend vaccine schedule to learn more about when your child should get an MMR vaccine, and other recommended vaccines. Following the recommended schedule helps reduce the risk of serious diseases that can be prevented. While under the routine immunization schedule, children receive their first vaccine against measles at 12-15 months of age, infants between 6 and 11 months of age should receive one dose of measles vaccine before traveling internationally.

Stay Informed

Learn more about measles. Find answers to frequently asked questions about measles and the vaccine used to prevent it.

Visit our web page and follow us on social media for updates on viruses and other health topics.

Fairfax Virtual Assistant