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Measles Outbreaks: Are you at risk?

Learn why measles outbreaks are on the rise and what you can do to stay protected.

The measles. It's scary to think about but something that everyone needs to consider due to the rise in reported cases. Currently, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has declared the incidence of measles is at its highest since 1992— and the year isn’t even over yet.  

The majority of the 1,276 measles cases (reported across 31 U.S. states as of December 5, 2019) are among those who are unvaccinated, a growing trend in the U.S.

Outbreak Factors 

According to the CDC, the two significant factors that can cause measles cases in any given year are:

  • an increase in the number of travelers who get measles abroad and bring it into the U.S., or
  • further spread of measles in U.S. communities with pockets of unvaccinated people.1


In 2018, for example, there were three significant measles outbreaks in New York State, New York City, and New Jersey. Primarily, those outbreaks occurred among people in communities of unvaccinated people and were associated with travelers who brought the disease back from another country, where a massive outbreak is occurring.Last year, 82 people brought measles to the U.S from other countries; the highest number of imported cases since the year 2000, when the measles was thought to be "eliminated" from the U.S.1,2

Measles outbreaks are not exclusive to religious communities who do not practice vaccination. The modern debate over the safety and efficacy of the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine, and vaccines in general, is undoubtedly contributing to the increase in reported measles cases observed over the last few years. However, the CDC remains adamant: the MMR vaccine is safe, and it is a very effective tool for preventing measles, mumps, and rubella. 

Who is Immune?

There are several ways to assure you are immune from measles, mumps, and rubella. The easiest way is to learn whether or not you have what is considered presumptive evidence of immunity. Those born before 1957 are assumed to be immune, given the likelihood that they were exposed to the disease naturally. Also, if you were immunized after 1967 and have written documentation of adequate vaccination, you are considered to be immune from the disease. Other forms of presumptive immunity include laboratory evidence of immunity or laboratory confirmation of the measles.

If you received a vaccine before 1968, you might not be immune to the disease as some vaccinations administered during that time were later deemed ineffective.

Still not sure if you’re immune? Learn how you can know for sure with Labcorp OnDemand’s MMR Immunity Profile.

Who Should Get the MMR Vaccine? 


  • The CDC recommends all children get two doses of MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine, starting with the first dose at 12 through 15 months of age, and the second dose at 4 through 6 years of age.3


  • Those who do not have presumptive evidence of immunity should get at least one dose of MMR vaccine (see below) especially those in higher risk settings.
  • Setting that poses a high risk for measles or mumps transmission include:
  • Students at post-high school education institutions
  • Healthcare personnel
  • International travelers
  • People who public health authorities determine are at increased risk during an outbreak3


  1. “Measles Cases and Outbreaks | CDC.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, www.cdc.gov/measles/cases-outbreaks.html.
  2. “MMR Vaccination | What You Should Know | Measles, Mumps, Rubella | CDC.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/mmr/public/index.html.
  3. Paumgarten, Nick. “The Message of Measles.” The New Yorker, The New Yorker, 27 Aug. 2019, www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/09/02/the-message-of-measles.