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Measles Virus Biological Agent Reference Sheet (BARS)

Updated December 4th, 2023
Disclaimer: Risk group, biosafety level, and all other precautions noted here are subject to change after a risk assessment by EHS.


Agent Type Risk Group Biosafety Level Animal Housing Biosafety Level
Virus  RG-2 BSL-2 ABSL-2

Agent Characteristics 

Risk Group: RG-2 associated with human disease, rarely serious; preventive, or therapeutic interventions often available.

Agent Type: Virus 

Description: Measles virus (MeV) was originally isolated from the blood of a patient in Massachusetts, USA 1954. This isolate was further passaged on human embryonic kidney cells thus forming the Edmonston strain (MeV-Ed). MeV-Ed has been used to create highly attenuated, live
measles vaccines. MeV-Ed has not been reported to cause illness in vaccinated, healthy individuals. However, wildtype (WT) Measles virus is highly contagious and can cause mild to severe disease in children and adults aged >20 years.

Host Range: Humans, non-human primates

Host Shedding: Blood, Direct Contact with infectious droplets, Urine, Airborne spread by breathing, coughing, sneezing

Route of Exposure to Humans: Aerosol/Inhalation, Direct Contact, Mucous Membranes, Contaminated Items, Percutaneous, Broken Skin

Infectious Dose: 0.2 units by intranasal spray                           Incubation Period: 7-14 days 

Health Hazards 

Signs and symptoms of infection may include:

  • Flu-like symptoms (i.e. fever, headache, dehydration, weight loss, lethargy)
  • Cutaneous symptoms (i.e. skin lesions, rash)
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms (i.e. loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea)
  • Respiratory symptoms (i.e. coughing, sneezing)
  • Neurological symptoms (i.e. acute encephalitis; subacute sclerosing panencephalitis)
  • Lymphoreticular symptoms (i.e. enlarged internal organs or lymph nodes)
  • Reproductive Health concerns (i.e. abortion, fetal abnormalities)

Note on MeV-Ed: Extremely rare reported cases where attenuated/passaged forms of MeV-Ed have caused disease are those stemming from vaccinations efforts. However, the risk was less than 1 per million doses (WHO).

Immunizations: Available                             Prophylaxis*:immunoglobulin 72 hours and 6 days post-exposure

*Formal medical advice is obtained during medical consultations with Cornell Health or primary healthcare provider as needed.

Agent Viability 

Survival Outside Host Disinfection Inactivation

2 hrs 

1:10 Bleach Dilution

2% Paraformaldehyde; 60 minutes UV light

For more guidance on disinfection see: disinfectant selection.

Laboratory Hazards 

  • High energy-creating activities (centrifugation, sonication, high pressure systems, vortexing, tube cap popping)
  • Handling of sharps (needles, scalpels, microtome blades, broken glass, etc.)
  • Splash/droplet-creating activities (shaking incubators, liquid culturing, mechanical pipetting)
  • Equipment contamination
  • Exposed skin/uncovered wounds

Laboratory Acquired Infection (LAI) History: None reported

Laboratory Handling Guidelines 

Laboratory Biosafety Level (BSL): BSL-2


Lab Engineering Controls Personal Protective Equipment
  • Eye Protection
  • Single gloves
  • Additional gloves (recommended)
  • Snap-front lab coat with cinch cuffs
  • Additional mucous membrane protection
  • Nasal mask

Waste Management: Regulated Medical Waste (RMW)

Shipping Guidance: Refer to EHS Biological Materials Shipping 

Animal Vivarium Guidance

Animal Housing Biosafety Level (ABSL): ABSL-2

Animal Biosecurity: Experimental animals are housed separately       

Perform Inoculations: Cage Changing Station, Biosafety Cabinet

Change CagesBenchtop, In a Biosafety Cabinet, Cage Changing Station

Exposure and Spill Procedures 

Mucous MembranesFlush eyes, mouth, or nose for 15 minutes at an eyewash station. See: responding to exposures.

Other Exposures: Wash with soap and water for 15 minutes (open wounds, sores, etc.) or a minimum of 20 seconds for areas with intact skin. See: responding to exposures.

Small Spills: Notify others working in the lab. Evacuate area and allow 30 minutes for aerosols to settle. Don appropriate PPE. Cover area of the spill with paper towels and apply disinfectant, working from the perimeter toward the center. Allow 30 minutes of contact time before disposal and cleanup of spill materials. See:  spill cleanup

Large Spills: Request assistance from the EHS Spill Team by calling CUPD dispatch. Call 911 from a campus phone or 607-255-1111 from a mobile phone.

Incident Reporting: Immediately report the incident to supervisor and complete the EHS online injury/illness report as soon as possible.

Medical Follow-Up:

  • For students, seek medical attention at Cornell Health or local primary care provider. Call Cornell Health at 607-255-5155 (24-hour phone consultation line) or a local urgent care. 
  • For faculty and staff, seek medical evaluation with a local primary care provider or urgent care. Cornell Health does not see employees for post-exposure care. 
  • Emergencies: Call 911 from a campus phone or 607-255-1111 from a mobile phone. 
Cornell EHS would like to thank Emory University for the use of their Biological Agent Reference Sheet (BARS) format and some content. 

More Information


  1. Baldo A, Galanis E, Tangy F, Herman P. Biosafety considerations for attenuated measles virus vectors used in virotherapy and vaccination. Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics 2016; 12 (5).
  2. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Measles Signs and Symptoms. CDC 2016. Retrieved from CDC.
  3. Center of Disease Control and Prevention. Chapter 13: Measles. The Pink Book. CDC 2016. Retrieved from CDC.
  4. Griffin DE, Pan CH. Measles: old vaccines, new vaccines. Curr Top Microbiol Immunol 2009; 330:191-212.
  5. Measles Pathogen Safety Data Sheet. Public Health Agency of Canada.
  6. Sanders R., Dabbagh A., Featherstone D. Risk Analysis for Measles Reintroduction After Global Certification of Eradication. The Journal of Infectious Diseases. 2011; 204:S71-S77
  7. US Department of Health and Human Services, (U.S.), C. for D. C. and P., & 2009, N. I. of H. (U. S. )A.-P. Y.-. (2009). Biosafety in microbiological and biomedical laboratories (5th ed.). [Washington D.C.]: U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health. Retrieved from CDC.
  8. World Health Organization. Information sheet observed rate of vaccine reactions: Measles, Mumps and Rubella Vaccines. WHO 2014.