Measles is a highly contagious illness that primarily spreads via:
- Droplets or airborne particles from the noses, mouths, or throats of infected people.
- Contact with an infected person’s respiratory secretions or saliva.
- Contact with surfaces contaminated with respiratory secretions or saliva.
Despite a great reduction in the number of cases and near eradication of the disease in the United States at the start of the 21st century, measles continues to occur domestically. Measles is usually a childhood disease but can affect individuals of any age. Outbreaks are most common in the winter and spring.
Initial symptoms, which usually appear 10–12 days after infection, include high fever, runny nose, red eyes, and white spots on the inside of the mouth. Several days later, a rash develops, starting on the face and upper neck and gradually spreading to the rest of the body. Measles is typically most contagious several days before the rash appears. In some cases, measles can lead to severe complications, including fatal pneumonia.
Workers may be exposed to measles whenever the virus is circulating in the community. Some workers also may be exposed to infected individuals who arrive in the U.S. from abroad. Workers who perform services or other activities in homes in affected communities also may be exposed. Workers who have not received the measles vaccine or who have not had the disease can get measles if they are exposed.
The measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine can prevent measles. For the vast majority of recipients, the vaccine is safe and effective. As with almost any vaccine, however, a small number of recipients may experience allergic reactions, side effects, or other adverse events. The benefits of vaccination typically far outweigh these risks.
This page provides information about measles for workers and employers. It addresses developing infection control plans and other infection prevention measures for workers in general and for those who may be at higher risk, including:
- Healthcare and dental workers.
- Childcare and school workers.
- Laboratory workers.
- Environmental services workers.
- Workers who are pregnant.
- Workers who travel abroad.
This page includes the following sections:
Provides information about vaccination and post-exposure treatment. This page also highlights signs and symptoms of measles, disease progression, and diagnosis.
Provides information about OSHA standards, letters of interpretation, directives (instructions for compliance officers), and other requirements that may apply in the event of possible worker exposure to measles.
Control and Prevention
Provides general guidance for workers and employers of workers who may be exposed to measles. This page also offers specific guidance for protecting workers who may be at increased exposure risk.
Hundreds of measles cases have been reported across the U.S. in 2019, including as part of outbreaks (defined as three or more cases) in California, Georgia, Maryland, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington.1 The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) believes these outbreaks are linked to travelers who brought measles back from other countries, such as Israel, Ukraine, and the Philippines where large outbreaks are occurring.
- Measles spreads easily from person to person, including through the air and on contaminated surfaces.
- According to the CDC, the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine is safe and highly effective.
- The best way to prevent workers from getting measles on the job is to encourage workers at risk of exposure to get the MMR vaccine.
- Measles can cause serious complications, particularly during pregnancy.
- Measles is also known as "rubeola."
- Measles is not the same thing as rubella, a different, typically milder disease caused by the rubella virus.
1 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Measles Cases and Outbreaks.