Measles

(Rubeola)

Definition

Measles is an infection that spreads easily. It causes fever, cough, and a rash. It was once a common childhood illness, but it is now less common in the United States due to the use of the measles vaccine .
Measles Rash
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Causes

Measles is caused by a virus. The virus is spread by:
  • Direct contact with nasal or throat secretions of infected people
  • Airborne transmission, which is less common
Measles can be spread:
  • 1-2 days before symptoms appear
  • 3-5 days before the rash
  • 4 days after the appearance of the rash

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase your risk of measles include:
  • Unvaccinated or inadequately vaccinated
  • Living in crowded and/or unsanitary conditions
  • Traveling to less developed countries where measles is common
  • Season: winter and spring
  • Weakened immune system even if vaccinated
  • Born after 1956 and either:
    • You have never been diagnosed with measles
    • You received a vaccine before 1968 and you have never been fully vaccinated since

Symptoms

Measles symptoms generally appear 8-12 days following exposure. They include:
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Fever, often high
  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Discomfort
  • Red eyes
  • Hacking cough
  • Sore throat
  • Exhaustion
  • Very small spots inside the mouth—2-4 days after initial symptoms
  • Raised, itchy red to brownish rash:
    • Starts around the ears, face, and side of the neck 3-5 days after the first symptoms appear
    • Generally spreads to the arms, trunk, and legs over the next 2 days
    • Lasts about 4-6 days
Full recovery, without scarring, generally takes 7-10 days from the onset of the rash.

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