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Measles, caused by morbillivirus, is mainly seen in the winter and spring. It's spread from one child to another through direct contact with discharge from the nose and throat. Sometimes, it is spread through airborne droplets (from a cough or sneeze) from an infected child.

In 1954, John F. Enders and Dr. Thomas C. Peebles collected blood samples from several ill students during a measles outbreak in Boston, Massachusetts. They wanted to isolate the measles virus in the student’s blood and create a measles vaccine. They succeeded in isolating measles in 13-year-old David Edmonston’s blood.

In 1963, John Enders and colleagues transformed their Edmonston-B strain of measles virus into a vaccine and licensed it in the United States. In 1968, an improved and even weaker measles vaccine, developed by Maurice Hilleman and colleagues, began to be distributed. This vaccine, called the Edmonston-Enders (formerly “Moraten”) strain had been the only measles vaccine used in the United States since 1968. Measles vaccine is usually combined with mumps and rubella (MMR) or combined with mumps, rubella, and varicella (MMRV). 

Symptoms of measles are:


  • high fever (may spike to more than 104°)

  • cough

  • runny nose 

  • red, watery eyes

The measles vaccine has led to a greater than 99% reduction in measles cases compared with the pre-vaccine era. However, measles is still common in other countries. Unvaccinated people continue to get measles while abroad and bring the disease into the United States and spread it to others.

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