The measles virus is highly contagious and can cause additional complications for adults who contract it. Most people receive a vaccine as a child, but many adults may still require a measles vaccine to protect themselves.

Causes and Symptoms of the Measles Virus

Known as the Rubeola virus, measles is found in the mucous membranes of the nose and throat in infected children and adults. The spread of the virus can happen even while a non-infected person is in the same room as an infected person due to the virus being highly contagious while airborne. In most cases, it can take up to two weeks for symptoms to show after contracting the virus.

Common symptoms of infection with the measles virus include:

  • Watery eyes
  • Cough
  • Gastrointestinal discomfort
  • Earaches
  • Rash across the body
  • High fever
  • Runny nose

Severe or untreated cases of measles can develop life-threatening symptoms. Pneumonia, inflammation in the brain, infection of the middle-ear or excessive diarrhea can all pose a serious risk of death if not properly treated in a timely manner. The National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) states that 20% of adults who have been infected with measles experience one or more of these complications.

Understanding the Measles Vaccine

Vaccines for measles were available to the public starting in 1963. The vaccine is administered in two doses that are given 28 days apart, and the immunization it provides is considered to last throughout a person’s lifetime.

People born before 1957 are assumed to have immunity to measles due to being exposed to outbreaks, which were more common before the advent of the vaccine. Your doctor can order a blood test to show if you have developed a natural immunity, but if you haven’t, they will recommend receiving a vaccine unless there are preexisting conditions that interfere with your ability to receive vaccines in the first place.

The measles vaccine is a combination vaccine that prevents infection from not only the measles virus but also mumps and rubella. There is no separate vaccine for just measles inoculation.

Side effects associated receiving the measles vaccine are considered rare and mild when they occur but may include a fever or redness and swelling at the site of the injection. Women may experience joint pain and stiffness, but only temporarily.

Medicare Coverage for the Measles Vaccine

Medicare Part B may help cover certain types of vaccines, such as a flu or Hepatitis B vaccine for high-risk patients, but Part B benefits do not cover the MMR vaccine. Commercially available vaccines like the MMR are covered for Medicare recipients who have a Part D prescription drug plan.

Medicare benefits provided through a Medicare Advantage plan that includes Part D coverage may also help recipients pay for the MMR vaccine. Part D and Medicare Advantage plans are offered through third-party insurers who contract with Medicare to provide recipients with benefits, so each plan will have different terms regarding copayments and coinsurance amounts. Many provide coverage for the MMR vaccine with low or no cost-sharing obligations for the recipient.

Prescription coverage assistance through Medicaid may be available for qualifying recipients. Other Medicaid-related assistance for eligible Medicare recipients may include vaccination coverage outside of prescription coverage plans. These programs can be different in each state and each state sets its own Medicaid eligibility rules, so check with your local agency for more information about benefits and application requirements.

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