is a childhood infection caused by a virus. Once quite
common, measles can now almost always be prevented with
and symptoms of measles include cough, runny nose,
inflamed eyes, sore throat and a fever. Measles also
cause a red, blotchy rash that usually appears first on
the face and behind the ears, then spreads downward to
the chest and back and finally to the feet.
called rubeola, measles can be serious and even fatal
for small children. While death rates have been falling
worldwide as more children receive the measles vaccine,
the disease still kills more than 100,000 people a year,
most under the age of 5.
FACTORS FOR MEASLES
Being unvaccinated. If you haven’t received the
vaccine for measles, you’re much more likely to
develop the disease.
Traveling internationally. If you travel to developing
countries, where measles is more common, you’re at
higher risk of catching the disease.
Having a vitamin A deficiency. If you don’t have
enough vitamin A in your diet, you’re more likely to
contract measles and to have more-severe symptoms.
Inflamed eyes (conjunctivitis)
Tiny white spots with bluish-white centers on a red
background found inside the mouth on the inner lining of
the cheek — also called Koplik’s spots
and symptoms appear 10 to 14 days after exposure to the
virus. The infection occurs in sequential stages over a
period of two to three weeks.
and incubation: For the first 10 to 14 days after you’re
infected, the measles virus incubates. You have no signs
or symptoms of measles during this time.
signs and symptoms: Measles typically begins with a mild
to moderate fever, often accompanied by a persistent
cough, runny nose, inflamed eyes (conjunctivitis) and
sore throat. This relatively mild illness may last two
or three days.
illness and rash: The rash consists of small red spots,
some of which are slightly raised. Spots and bumps in
tight clusters give the skin a splotchy red appearance.
The face breaks out first, particularly behind the ears
and along the hairline.
the next few days, the rash spreads down the arms and
trunk, then over the thighs, lower legs and feet. At the
same time, fever rises sharply, often as high as 104 to
105.8 F (40 to 41 C). The measles rash gradually
recedes, fading first from the face and last from the
thighs and feet.
period: A person with measles can spread the virus to
others for about eight days, starting four days before
the rash appears and ending when the rash has been
present for four days.
Ear infection. One of the most common complications of
measles is a bacterial ear infection.
Bronchitis, laryngitis or croup. Measles may lead to
inflammation of your voice box (larynx) or inflammation
of the inner walls that line the main air passageways of
your lungs (bronchial tubes).
Pneumonia. Pneumonia is a common complication of
measles. People with compromised immune systems can
develop an especially dangerous variety of pneumonia
that is sometimes fatal.
Encephalitis. About 1 in 1,000 people with measles
develops encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain that
may cause vomiting, convulsions, and, rarely, coma or
even death. Encephalitis can closely follow measles, or
it can occur months later.
Pregnancy problems. If you’re pregnant, you need to
take special care to avoid measles because the disease
can cause pregnancy loss, preterm labor or low birth
Low platelet count (thrombocytopenia). Measles may lead
to a decrease in platelets — the type of blood cells
that are essential for blood clotting.
TO SEE A DOCTOR
your doctor if you think you or your child may have been
exposed to measles or if you or your child has a rash
resembling measles. Review your family’s immunization
records with your doctor, especially before starting
elementary school, before college and before