Q: How does measles spread?

A: Measles is one of the most contagious diseases on Earth. It is a respiratory infection caused by a virus. The virus lives in the nose and throat of an infected person. It can spread by direct contact with infectious droplets or through the air when an infected person breathes, coughs or sneezes. The measles virus can remain infectious in the air for up to two hours after an infected person leaves an area. If other people breathe the contaminated air or touch the infected surface, then touch their eyes, noses, or mouths, they can become infected.

Q: Can antibiotics treat measles?

A: No. Antibiotics are used for infections caused by bacteria. Measles is caused by a virus. There is no specific treatment for measles. Health care professionals try to prevent the disease by administering the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine to children. Nonimmunized people, including infants, may be given the measles vaccination within 72 hours of exposure to the virus to provide protection against the disease.

Q: How effective is the measles vaccine?

A: The MMR vaccine is very effective. One dose of the vaccine is about 93 percent effective at preventing measles. Two doses are about 97 percent effective, according to the CDC. The CDC recommends that children get two MMR doses, starting with the first dose at 12 to 15 months of age and the second dose at 4 to 6 years of age.

Q: Does the measles vaccine cause autism?

A: No, there is no link between autism and the MMR vaccine. This has been carefully examined by many doctors and scientists in large and thorough studies. The debunked claim that there is a relationship between vaccines and autism largely stems from the late 1990s. At the time, autism diagnoses had been increasing, and doctors didn’t know why. In 1998, British researcher Andrew Wakefield published a fraudulent paper, which was subsequently retracted, linking autism to the MMR vaccine. Evidence emerged that Wakefield had been paid by attorneys for parents who were suing MMR manufacturers and that Wakefield’s data were fraudulent. In 2010, he was found guilty of professional misconduct by Britain’s General Medical Council and his license was revoked.