Immunization Matters – Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR) Vaccine

Recent outbreaks of measles and mumps have highlighted the importance of MMR (Measles Mumps Rubella) vaccination.

MMR Vaccination for Adults:

In general, adults born before 1957 are generally considered to be immune to measles and mumps. Adults born after 1957 should have documentation of 1 or more doses of MMR vaccine. If you are unsure of your immunity, antibody titers can be checked with a blood test.
Unvaccinated healthcare workers born before 1957 who lack laboratory evidence of immunity need 2 doses of MMR (at least 28 days apart) for measles and mumps or one dose of MMR for rubella. Rubella immunity should be determined for all women of childbearing potential and if not immune and not pregnant, these women should be vaccinated. The CDC says all US residents born after 1956 should make sure they have received MMR vaccine or have serologic evidence of immunity.

A routine second dose of MMR vaccine, administered a minimum of 28 days after the first dose, is recommended for adults who:

  • are students in postsecondary educational institutions,
  • work in a health care facility, or
  • plan to travel internationally

Anyone who received inactivated (killed) measles vaccine or measles vaccine of unknown type during 1963–1967 should be revaccinated with 2 doses of the current MMR vaccine.

MMR vaccination for Children:

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (2015 child schedule) routinely recommends that children receive 2 doses of MMR vaccine, the first dose at 12 to 15 months and the second dose at 4 to 6 years old. However, younger children (infants age 6-12 months old) who are traveling internationally should receive an MMR dose before travel (and then the two additional doses as previously outlined.) MMR doses must be separated by at least 4 weeks.

More About Measles

Measles is a viral infection that is highly contagious. It lives in the nose and throat of an infected person spreads through the air through coughing and sneezing. Measles virus can live for up to two hours on a surface or in an airspace. If other people breathe the contaminated air or touch the infected surface, then touch their eyes, noses, or mouths, they can become infected. Measles is so contagious that if one person has it, 90% of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected.

What are the symptoms of measles?

Measles starts with a fever, runny nose, cough, red eyes, and sore throat, and is followed by a rash that spreads all over the body. Infected people are contagious 4 days before to 4 days after the rash appears. Measles is a disease of humans; measles virus is not spread by any other animal species.

Measles can have serious consequences:

Getting measles during pregnancy may cause a pregnant woman to give birth prematurely, or to have a low-birth-weight baby.
About three out of 10 people who get measles will develop pneumonia, ear infections (which can result in a permanent hearing loss), or diarrhea. More severe complications include pneumonia and encephalitis (swelling of the brain). Adults older than 20 and children under 5 are more likely to have serious complications. Measles has also been linked to a very rare but fatal disease called subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE). SSPE affects the central nervous system and usually results from a measles virus infection acquired earlier in life. SSPE generally develops 7 to 10 years after a person has measles, even though the person seems to have fully recovered from the illness.

More About Mumps

Mumps is a contagious disease caused by the mumps virus. Mumps is spread by droplets of saliva or mucus from the mouth, nose, or throat of an infected person, usually when that person coughs, sneezes or talks. Items used by an infected person, such as cups or soft drink cans, can also be contaminated with the virus. The virus may spread to others if those items are shared. In addition, the virus may spread when someone with mumps touches items or surfaces without washing their hands and someone else then touches the same surface and rubs their mouth or nose.

Before the routine vaccination program was introduced in the United States, mumps was a common illness in infants, children and young adults. Because most people have now been vaccinated, mumps has become a rare disease in the United States. However, anyone who is not immune (from either previous mumps infection or from vaccination) can get mumps. The MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine is the best way to prevent mumps. Two doses of the vaccine are more effective against mumps than one dose and prevent most, but not all, cases of mumps and mumps complications.

What are the symptoms of Mumps?

Mumps typically starts with a few days of fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, and loss of appetite, and is followed by swelling and tenderness of salivary glands (glands under the ears or jaw on one or both sides of the face). Most mumps transmission likely occurs before the salivary glands begin to swell and within the 5 days after the swelling begins. Therefore, CDC recommends isolating mumps patients for 5 days after their glands begin to swell.

Mumps can have serious consequences:

Most people with mumps recover fully. However, mumps can occasionally cause complications, and some can be serious. Complications may occur even if a person does not have swollen salivary glands (parotitis) and are more common in people who have reached puberty.

Complications of mumps can include inflammation of the testicles (orchitis) in males who have reached puberty (which can rarely lead to sterility), inflammation of the brain (encephalitis) and/or tissue covering the brain and spinal cord (meningitis), inflammation of the ovaries (oophoritis) and/or breasts (mastitis) in females who have reached puberty. Mumps can also cause temporary or permanent deafness.

More About Rubella

Rubella immunity should be determined for ALL women of childbearing age, regardless of birth year. If there is no evidence of immunity, women who are not pregnant should be vaccinated. Pregnant women who do not have evidence of immunity should receive MMR vaccination as soon as possible after they have their baby.

What is rubella?

Rubella, sometimes called German measles or three-day measles, is a contagious disease caused by a virus. The infection is usually mild with fever and rash. Rubella is spread by contact with an infected person, through coughing and sneezing. Rubella vaccine (contained in MMR vaccine) can prevent this disease.

  • For unvaccinated health-care personnel born before 1957 who lack laboratory evidence of measles, mumps, and/or rubella immunity or laboratory confirmation of disease, health care facilities should consider vaccinating personnel with 2 doses of MMR vaccine at the appropriate interval for measles and mumps or 1 dose of MMR vaccine for rubella.

What are the symptoms of rubella?

In children, rubella usually starts a rash that starts on the face and spreads to the rest of the body along with fever (less than 101 degrees). Symptoms last 2 or 3 days.

Older children and adults may also have swollen glands and symptoms like a cold before the rash appears. Aching joints occur in many cases, especially among young women. About half of the people who get rubella do not have symptoms.

Rubella can have serious consequences:

Babies whose mothers get rubella while pregnant can have severe birth defects including deafness, cataracts, heart defects, mental retardation, as well as liver and spleen damage. If a pregnant mom is infected early in pregnancy, there is at least a 20% chance that the baby will have problems.