What are the measles symptoms?

What is measles?

Measles, also called rubeola, is a highly contagious illness caused by a virus. It starts with fever that gets worse over several days, cough, runny nose, and watery, red eyes. After a few days a rash develops and lasts up to a week. Then it gets better by itself. Some people get a more serious case of measles which can cause diarrhea, middle ear infection, pneumonia (lung infection) or encephalitis (brain infection).

Measles illness during pregnancy can cause early labor, miscarriage, and low birth weight infants. Measles in people with AIDS or weak immune systems can be very severe. In the United States, 2 out of 1000 people who get measles will die from it, usually from the complications of the pneumonia or encephalitis caused by the infection.

How is measles spread?

Measles is spread person-to-person when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or shares food or drinks. The virus travels easily through the air. It can live in the air and on surfaces for up to two hours. An infected person can pass the virus during the four days before the rash appears and for four days after the rash begins. A person who is exposed to measles and is not protected by immunization will probably become sick 7 to 21 days after exposure.

What are the symptoms of measles?

People usually do not show signs of measles until 7-14 days after being exposed to someone with measles.  Measles can seem like a cold the first few days with a fever (103-105°), cough, sore throat, red watery eyes, and runny nose.  About 2-4 days later a red blotchy rash appears that can last from 5-7 days. The rash starts on the face and neck and moves down the body.

Is measles dangerous?

Measles can be a dangerous or even deadly disease. Measles can lead to ear infections, diarrhea, pneumonia, seizures and meningitis, and encephalitis (swelling of the brain). Symptoms of measles usually appear 7 to 14 days after a person is infected, but can occur as late as 21 days later.

Who is at risk for serious illness from measles?

  • Infants less than 12 months are most at risk for getting measles and for serious illness
  • Children less than 5 years old
  • Pregnant women
  • People with weak immune systems (due to disease or medicines).
  • Anyone without immunity

Who is at risk for spreading measles to those vulnerable to serious illness?

All people who do not have immunity (have not been infected before and recovered or have not had two doses of measles vaccine) are at risk for spreading measles to others

  • Unvaccinated young children
  • Healthcare providers who do not have immunity
  • Child care providers who do not have immunity
  • International travelers who do not have immunity
  • Any other person in the community without immunity

How can I protect myself and my family?

  • Through vaccination.
  • Make sure you and all household members have been vaccinated properly.
  • More than 97% of those who receive two doses of the vaccine are protected from measles. Insist that persons who have close contact with or care for your children have had the vaccine.
  • Contact your health care provider immediately if you or anyone in your family develops measles symptoms. Let your health care provider know you have measles symptoms BEFORE going to their medical office so they can work to avoid exposing others to the virus.

General reminders about staying healthy

  • Receiving the measles vaccine is the most effective method of protection.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or your elbow when you cough or sneeze, then wash your hands.
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • If you are sick with flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone.
  • While sick, limit contact with others and contact your healthcare provider by phone immediately.
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