Skip directly to search Skip directly to A to Z list Skip directly to site content
CDC Home

Case file: Krimson Kreeps

  • Real name: Measles
  • Known aliases: Rubeola (pronounced ru-bee-oh-luh)
  • Microbe type: Virus


Cartoon drawing of Krimson Kreeps AKA measelesPROFILE

This operator begins inside of the body and works its way to the outside. The measles virus first grows unseen inside the throat and/or lungs. Then symptoms you can see start showing up—little red spots with gray tops inside the cheeks and throat, conjunctivitis (“pink eye”), and measles’ trademark skin rash that covers its victims from head to toe. On top of all that, measles infection slams people with a high fever (sometimes up to 105°!), cough, runny nose, and swollen glands.

Under measles’ attack, people feel very sick for about a week, and the measles rash can last a few days more. Most people survive this assault. Even so, for every 1,000 kids in the U.S. who get measles, 1 to 2 die from it. Even if the body’s immune system defeats this invader, complications can sometimes set in like pneumonia or ear infections and, in rare cases, brain swelling can lead to seizures, hearing loss or mental retardation.

Measles is an “air and surface” attacker, spread mostly by coughs and sneezes. It’s a highly contagious and pretty tough enemy.

The proof? (1) Measles is so easy to catch that any person without vaccine protection is probably going to get measles at some point in life. (2) The virus is so tough that if an infected person sneezes measles virus into the air, it can live there for up to 2 hours waiting to get into the lungs of the next person who breathes.


Measles vaccine can crush the ability of measles virus to infect people. We know this because the number of people who get measles in the U.S. has gone down by 99% since the vaccine first started being used in the 1960s. Everyone still needs to be vaccinated, though, because measles is still busy infecting people in other parts of the world. It’s like measles is just waiting to hitch a ride when an infected person visits the U.S., or waiting for an unprotected person to drop into measles’ own town for a visit.

The measles vaccine is called “the MMR vaccine,” because it rolls three vaccines—for measles, for mumps, and for rubella —into one. This vaccine contains measles virus that is so weak and unable to grow that the body can easily fight it off. In fighting the weakling measles virus, your immune system learns how to beat this attacker and protect you against the real thing (called “wild measles virus”). After getting two doses of MMR vaccine, more than 99% of people are protected against measles.

The vaccine is the best protection because there is no way to cure measles, only medicines to make a person feel better while their own immune system tackles the virus. However, measles only gets one chance at an unvaccinated person. Once someone has had measles, he or she is typically protected forever because the body has learned how to fight this attacker.


Measles is such an active predator that it can infect pretty much anyone who is not protected by measles vaccine. It’s especially easy for people living close together (like college students in dorms, or passengers on cruise ships), and people working in health care (like nurses) to catch measles from the people around them. Measles may also infect people who travel to parts of the world where measles is more common.


First line of defense, vaccines. Then, it’s just “back to basics.” Wash hands often with soap to get rid of any virus you may have touched. And, cover up coughs and sneezes to avoid passing germs of any kind to others.


Measles strikes hardest in certain parts of the world. In developing countries—where fewer people are protected by vaccines, and many people lack food they need for good health—measles has been known to kill 1 out of every 4 people!


Measles’ criminal career in the U.S. was most successful early on, when no one was vaccinated. Back then, almost everybody got measles some time or another. And a lot more people died from it than do today. Throughout the world, measles remains a vicious predator. It infects about 20 million people and kills about 164,000 of them worldwide each year.

Immune Platoon Disease Database The U.S. Government's Official Web PortalDepartment of Health and Human Services
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention   1600 Clifton Road Atlanta, GA 30329-4027, USA
800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636) TTY: (888) 232-6348 - Contact CDC–INFO
A-Z Index
  1. A
  2. B
  3. C
  4. D
  5. E
  6. F
  7. G
  8. H
  9. I
  10. J
  11. K
  12. L
  13. M
  14. N
  15. O
  16. P
  17. Q
  18. R
  19. S
  20. T
  21. U
  22. V
  23. W
  24. X
  25. Y
  26. Z
  27. #