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Just how contagious is measles anyway?

Reports of the measles outbreak in Disneyland is prompting people to ask the big question: How do you know if you are immune to the virus?
How do you know if you're at risk of catching measles? 01:19

The measles outbreak has grown to at least 75 cases in six states. The vast majority are linked to Disney theme parks in Southern California. The rate at which the measles has spread highlights just how infectious the virus is.

On average, a person with measles sickens 12 to 18 unvaccinated people. In comparison, a person with the flu infects one to four and someone with Ebola infects two to three. The measles vaccine is 97 percent effective in those who have received two doses. The death rate is about one in 1,000 but the complication rate is as high as one in three.

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"It can result in death," said Dr. Jane Seward with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. "It can result in brain damage, it can result in hospitalizations and someone being very, very sick."

The CDC says people are considered immune if any of the following are true:

  • They were born before 1957, therefore likely exposed to measles
  • They have documentation of adequate vaccination
  • A blood test suggests immunity
Are you in the 14-year gap that was unreliable for measles vaccine? 02:15

The CDC suggests people without immunity discuss vaccination with their health care providers. Clearly there's room for improvement. Depending upon the state, the vaccination rate for toddlers ranges from 86 percent to 96 percent; in California the rate is 91 percent.

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