Washington, DC - The U.S. continues to experience cases and outbreaks of measles, largely due to unvaccinated or under-vaccinated segments of the population. Measles can be a serious disease. This year has seen the greatest number of measles cases reported in the U.S. since 1992, and since measles was declared eliminated in 2000. Of those diagnosed with measles, approximately 10% have required hospitalization. The majority of cases are among people who were not vaccinated.

The Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) vaccine has been approved in the U.S. for nearly 50 years. It is highly effective and very safe. As a result of its use, measles was declared eliminated in the U.S. in 2000, rubella in 2004, and since 1989, mumps cases have decreased by 99%.

“As the new school year is getting underway across the nation, the FDA would like to remind parents and caregivers about the importance of making sure children are up to date on their vaccines. We cannot state strongly enough that overwhelming scientific evidence shows that vaccines are among the most effective and safest interventions, to both prevent individual illness and protect public health,” said Peter Marks, M.D., Ph.D., director of FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. “It is deeply concerning to see vaccine-preventable infectious diseases such as measles or mumps reemerging in the U.S. and impacting the health of individuals and entire communities. We understand that parents may have questions about vaccines and we want to urge them to discuss questions regarding vaccinations with their child’s health care provider. As a public health agency, we want to reiterate our confidence in the safety and efficacy of the MMR vaccine. The FDA always strives to use the best available scientific evidence to promote and protect the well-being of individuals and the public health, and the evidence fully supports the safety and effectiveness of this vaccine.”

All of these diseases start with symptoms that may mirror the common cold, but they can cause serious illness, and in some cases, even death. Measles – a respiratory disease that causes a skin rash, fever, cough and runny nose – can be dangerous, especially for babies and young children who are too young to be vaccinated. It is one of the most contagious diseases and can cause severe complications, including pneumonia, swelling of the brain and death. In fact, one to three people out of every 1,000 who contract measles dies from complications of the disease, even with the best care. Mumps causes fever, headache, loss of appetite and the well-known sign of swollen cheeks and jaw from the swelling of the salivary glands. Complications, though rare, can include deafness and meningitis (an infection, which can sometimes be deadly, of the lining that surrounds the brain and spinal cord). Rubella, once a common disease that occurred primarily among young children, causes fever, rash, and -- mainly in women -- arthritis. Rubella infection during pregnancy can also lead to birth defects.

Given the serious health impacts that measles, mumps and rubella may have on American families, as the new school year continues to unfold, the FDA cannot state strongly enough that the most effective measure against these diseases remains prevention through vaccination. For information about how the MMR vaccine can protect your family, visit the FDA’s website and talk to your health care provider.

The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.