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Can you get measles twice?

Can you get measles twice?

Navin Khosla NowPatientGreen tick
Created on 16 Jul 2024
Updated on 18 Jul 2024

Measles is a highly contagious viral infection that affects millions of individuals worldwide. It is characterized by a distinct rash, high fever, and respiratory symptoms. While most people develop lifelong immunity after recovering from measles, there have been rare cases of individuals contracting the virus more than once. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the concept of measles immunity, the effectiveness of the measles vaccine, and the possibility of getting measles twice. Let’s dive in!

What is measles?

Measles, also known as rubeola, is an infectious disease caused by the measles virus. It primarily affects the respiratory system and can spread through respiratory droplets from an infected person through coughing, sneezing and close contact. Measles is known for its characteristic red spot rash, high fever, and other flu-like symptoms.

Signs and symptoms of measles

Knowing the signs and symptoms of measles is essential for prompt identification and appropriate medical care. Common symptoms include:

  • High fever
  • Runny nose
  • Cough
  • Red eyes
  • Watery eyes
  • Measles rash (appearing a few days after initial symptoms) that starts on the face and spreads to the rest of the body

Measles typically begins with a high fever, cough, runny nose, and watery eyes. These initial symptoms are followed by the development of a rash. Other symptoms may include sore throat, muscle pain, and fatigue.

Complications of measles

While most individuals recover from measles without complications, it can lead to severe health problems, especially in vulnerable populations. Complications may include:

  • Pneumonia: Measles can cause inflammation and infection in the lungs, leading to pneumonia, which can be life-threatening
  • Encephalitis: In rare cases, measles can cause inflammation of the brain (encephalitis), which can result in neurological damage
  • Ear infections: Measles can lead to ear infections, which can cause pain and potential hearing loss
  • Pregnant women: Measles infection during pregnancy can have adverse effects on both the mother and the unborn baby

Understanding measles immunity

Measles immunity refers to the body’s ability to recognize and defend against the measles virus. When a person is exposed to the virus, their immune system produces specific antibodies that target the virus and prevent its replication. These antibodies protect against future infections.

Natural immunity to measles

Natural immunity to measles is acquired when a person is infected with the virus and recovers. Once the immune system has encountered the virus, it develops a memory response that allows it to recognize and respond more effectively to subsequent exposures. This natural immunity is typically long-lasting and provides lifelong protection against measles.

Measles vaccine-induced immunity

The measles vaccine is a safe and highly effective way to prevent measles. It stimulates the immune system to produce an immune response similar to that of a natural infection, without causing the actual illness. The measles vaccine contains weakened or inactivated measles virus components that trigger the production of protective antibodies.

Importance of measles vaccination

Vaccination is crucial for protecting individuals from measles and preventing its spread within communities. The measles vaccine is typically administered as part of the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, which also provides immunity against mumps and rubella. The MMR vaccine not only protects the individual receiving the vaccine but also helps protect those who cannot be vaccinated, such as infants and individuals with weakened immune systems.

Measles vaccine schedule

The measles vaccine is typically administered in two doses. The first dose is usually given between 12 and 15 months of age, and the second dose is given between 4 and 6 years of age. The second dose is necessary to ensure optimal protection and boost immunity in individuals who may not have responded fully to the first dose.

Measles vaccine effectiveness

The measles vaccine is highly effective in preventing measles infections. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one dose of the vaccine is about 93% effective at preventing measles, and two doses of the MMR vaccine are about 97% effective. However, no vaccine provides 100% protection, and there is still a small chance of breakthrough infection even in vaccinated individuals.

Can you get measles twice?

While most individuals develop lifelong immunity after recovering from measles or receiving the measles vaccine, there have been rare cases of individuals contracting the virus more than once. This phenomenon, known as secondary measles infection, occurs when a person’s immune response to the virus weakens over time.

Factors influencing measles immunity

Several factors can influence the duration and strength of measles immunity:

  • Natural infection: The immune response to natural measles infection tends to provide stronger and longer-lasting immunity compared to vaccine-induced immunity
  • Vaccine effectiveness: The measles vaccine is highly effective, but a small percentage of individuals may not develop adequate immunity after vaccination
  • Time since vaccination or infection: Measles immunity may wane over time, especially in individuals who were vaccinated or infected many years ago
  • Variants of the measles virus: The emergence of new strains or variants of the measles virus can potentially evade the immune response and increase the risk of reinfection

Cases of measles reinfection

Although rare, cases of measles reinfection have been reported. These cases typically involve individuals who were previously infected or vaccinated but experienced a second episode of measles due to waning immunity or exposure to a different strain of the virus. Reinfection is more likely to occur in individuals with weakened immune systems or those who have not received the recommended two doses of the measles vaccine.

Importance of boosting measles immunity

To maintain optimal protection against measles, it is important to ensure that individuals receive the recommended two doses of the measles vaccine. Boosting immunity through vaccination helps strengthen the body’s defences and reduces the risk of reinfection. Additionally, individuals who have been previously infected with measles should still receive the recommended doses of the vaccine to enhance their immune response and provide long-term protection.


Measles is a highly contagious viral infection that can be serious, especially in young children. While most individuals develop lifelong immunity after recovering from measles or receiving the measles vaccine, rare cases of reinfection have been reported. To protect against measles, it is crucial to ensure that individuals receive the recommended two doses of the measles vaccine and maintain high vaccination coverage within communities. Vaccination not only protects individuals from measles but also contributes to the overall eradication of this preventable disease.

Remember, measles vaccination is a safe and effective way to protect yourself, your loved ones, and the community from this highly contagious virus. Stay informed, stay protected, and together we can eliminate measles once and for all. Remember, if you have any concerns or questions about measles or your vaccination status, consult with your healthcare provider for personalized medical advice.


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NowPatient has taken all reasonable steps to ensure that all material is factually accurate, complete, and current. However, the knowledge and experience of a qualified healthcare professional should always be sought after instead of using the information on this page. Before taking any drug, you should always speak to your doctor or another qualified healthcare provider.

The information provided here about medications is subject to change and is not meant to include all uses, precautions, warnings, directions, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or negative effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a particular medication does not imply that the medication or medication combination is appropriate for all patients or for all possible purposes.


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