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Get the facts about measles

What is Measles?

Measles (rubeola) is an extremely contagious disease caused by the measles virus. Measles can cause complications such as pneumonia and encephalitis (inflammation of the brain). Measles can also cause miscarriages or premature delivery in pregnant women.

What are the symptoms?

  • The illness starts with a runny nose, red eyes, cough, fever, and sore throat.
  • After 2-3 days, tiny white spots may appear in the mouth.
  • A raised, red rash appears on the 3rd-5th day of
  • illness. It starts on the face and spreads down the body and out to the arms and legs. This rash usually lasts 4-7 days.
  • Symptoms start 7-14 days after being exposed to measles, and last from 1-2 weeks.
  • Complications can include ear infections, pneumonia, seizures, and brain damage.
  • A person with measles is contagious for 4 days before and 4 days after the rash appears. If you suspect measles, seek medical treatment as soon as possible.

How is it spread?

Droplets from the nose or mouth, through sneezing, coughing or speaking, spread measles from one person to another. This illness is more common in late winter and early spring.Most measles cases in the United States are now imported from other countries where outbreaks are occurring.

How is it treated?

  • There is no specific medicine to cure measles. If you or your child develops symptoms, do not visit your doctor or go to the emergency room unless you call ahead so they can take precautions to prevent exposure to others.
  • Rest, plenty of fluids, and a non-aspirin product (acetaminophen, ibuprofen) can be used to reduce fever and discomfort.
  • The sick person should stay at home until 4 days after the appearance of the rash

How is it prevented?

The best way to prevent measles is to be vaccinated against it. The vaccine is given in combination with the mumps and rubella vaccines, known as MMR vaccine. Two (2) MMR injections are needed to be completely immunized.Teenagers and adults who do not know if they are protected against measles should ask their doctor or clinic about the MMR vaccine.

Pregnant women should not receive the live vaccine-and all women of childbearing age should avoid anyone with measles.



This fact sheet is for information only and is not meant to be used for self -diagnosis or as a substitute for consultation with a health care provider. For more information call your health care provider or call Wayne County Public Health at 734-727-7078.