Current Disease Updates
Measles is a respiratory disease caused by a virus. The disease of measles and the virus that causes it share the same name. The disease is also called rubeola. Measles virus normally grows in the cells that line the back of the throat and lungs.
Signs and Symptoms
The symptoms of measles generally begin about 7-14 days after a person is infected. A typical case of measles begins with mild to moderate fever, cough, runny nose, red eyes, and sore throat. Two or three days after symptoms begin, tiny white spots (Koplik’s spots) may appear inside the mouth.
Three to five days after the start of symptoms, a red or reddish-brown rash appears. The rash usually begins on a person’s face at the hairline and spreads downward to the neck, trunk, arms, legs, and feet. When the rash appears, a person’s fever may spike to more than 104 degrees Fahrenheit.
After a few days, the fever subsides and the rash fades.
About one out of 10 children with measles also gets an ear infection, and up to one out of 20 gets pneumonia. About one out of 1,000 gets meningitis (inflammation of the brain), and one or two out of 1,000 die. Other rash-causing diseases often confused with measles include roseola (roseola infantum) and rubella (German measles).
While measles is almost gone from the United States, it still kills nearly 200,000 people each year around the world. Measles can also make a pregnant woman have a miscarriage or give birth prematurely.
Measles is highly contagious and can be spread to others from four days before to four days after the rash appears. Measles is so contagious that if one person has it, 90% of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected with the measles virus.
The virus lives in the mucus in the nose and throat of the infected person. When that person sneezes or coughs, droplets spray into the air. The droplets can get into other people’s noses or throats when they breathe or put their fingers in their mouth or nose after touching an infected surface. The virus can live on infected surfaces for up to two hours and spreads so easily that people who are not immune will probably get it when they come close to someone who is infected.
The measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine (MMR) is the best way to protect against getting measles. Children should be given the first dose of MMR vaccine soon after the first birthday (12 to 15 months of age). The second dose is recommended before the start of the kindergarten. Adults at increased risk of getting measles — college students, international travelers and healthcare workers — should make sure they have been vaccinated against measles.
Stay up to date with the latest information from the following websites:
Centers for Disease Control
Monterey County Health Department: