Immunology

Infants usually have a passive immunity to measles as a result of maternal antibodies acquired transplacental^ from immune mothers. This passive immunity protects the infant from measles infection for 6 to 9 months, depending on the amount of maternal antibody acquired.

Measles infection induces a lifelong immunity. Several methods for confirming infection and immunity have been developed, including the following: serologic tests, fluorescent antibody techniques, and isolation of the virus from patients during the acute phase of the disease.

A single dose of live attenuated measles virus vaccine confers long-term, probably lifelong, immunity in over 95 percent of susceptible individuals. The optimal age for vaccination is related to the persistence of passive immunity from maternal antibodies and patterns of disease transmission. For developed countries with low incidence, such as the United States, vaccination at 15 months of age is recommended, whereas in developing countries the Expanded Programme on Immunization recommends vaccination at 9 months of age.

Measles vaccine may confer immunity if given within 72 hours of exposure; and immune globulin (IG), if given within 6 days of exposure, may provide a limited-duration protection from measles, owing to passively acquired antibodies from the immune globulin.

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