Measles risk factors

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]; Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Guillermo Rodriguez Nava, M.D. [2]


Measles is a disease with very low incidence in the developed world. Lack of vaccination against measles is one of the biggest risk factors that predisposes measles spread. In developed countries like USA, most cases are attributed to unvaccinated or incompletely vaccinated travelers from other parts of the world. Primary vaccine failure occurs in approximately 5% of individuals vaccinated with a single dose of vaccine at 12 months of age or older and also predisposes an individual to the risk of developing measles.[1]

Common Risk Factors

  • Unvaccinated individuals: a retrospective cohort study showed that children who have philosophical and religious exemptions from immunization were 22.2 times (95% confidence interval [CI], 15.9-31.1) more likely to acquire measles.[2]
  • Limited vaccination: incomplete doses of the vaccine; up to 35% children vaccinated with only 1 dose of MMR vaccine do not have protective antibodies.[3]
  • Living in crowded and/or unsanitary conditions such as prisons and college dorm rooms
  • Traveling to less developed and developing countries where measles is common
  • Weakened immune system even if vaccinated
  • Winter and spring seasons
  • Born after 1956 and never fully vaccinated since.
  • Health care workers


  1. "Measles" (PDF).
  2. Feikin DR, Lezotte DC, Hamman RF, Salmon DA, Chen RT, Hoffman RE (2000). "Individual and community risks of measles and pertussis associated with personal exemptions to immunization". JAMA. 284 (24): 3145–50. PMID 11135778.
  3. Ratnam S, West R, Gadag V, Williams B, Oates E (1996). "Immunity against measles in school-aged children: implications for measles revaccination strategies". Can J Public Health. 87 (6): 407–10. PMID 9009400.

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