Diseases > Measles
Measles - What you need to know
respiratory disease caused by a virus
virus normally grows in the cells that
line the back of the throat and in
the cells that line the lungs.
high fever, cough, runny nose, and
red, watery eyes (lasts about a week)
begin to appear about 10 to 12 days
after exposure to the virus. The infected
person first experiences a fever lasting
about 2 to 4 days that can peak as
high as 103 degrees Fahrenheit to 105 degrees
Fahrenheit. This is followed by the onset of
cough, runny nose, and/or conjunctivitis
(pink eye). The rash usually appears
about 14 days after exposure and lasts
5 to 6 days. It begins at the hairline,
then involves the face and upper neck.
Over the next 3 days, the rash gradually
proceeds downward and outward, reaching
the hands and feet.
ear infections, pneumonia, encephalitis,
seizures, and death
20% of reported measles cases experience
one or more complications. These complications
are more common among children under
5 years of age and adults over 20 years
causes ear infections in nearly one
out of every 10 children who get it.
As many as one out of 20 children with
measles gets pneumonia, and about one
child in every 1,000 who get measles
will develop encephalitis. (This is
an inflammation of the brain that can
lead to convulsions, and can leave
your child deaf or mentally retarded.)
For every 1,000 children who get measles,
one or two will die from it. Measles
can also make a pregnant woman have
a miscarriage, give birth prematurely,
or have a low-birth-weight baby.
developing countries, where malnutrition
and vitamin A deficiency are prevalent,
measles has been known to kill as many
as one out of four people. It is the
leading cause of blindness among African
children. Measles kills almost 1 million
children in the world each year.
Spread by contact with an infected person, through coughing and sneezing (highly contagious)
disease is highly contagious, and can
be transmitted from 4 days prior to
the onset of the rash to 4 days after
the onset. If one person has it, 90%
of their susceptible close contacts
will also become infected with the
virus resides in the mucus in the nose
and throat of the infected person.
When that person sneezes or coughs,
droplets spray into the air. The infected
mucus can land in other people’s noses
or throats when they breathe or put
their fingers in their mouth or nose
after handling an infected surface.
The virus remains active and contagious
on infected surfaces for up to 2 hours.
Measles spreads so easily that anyone
who is not immunized will probably
get it, eventually.
vaccine (contained in MMR, MR and measles
vaccines) can prevent this disease.
MMR vaccine is a live, attenuated (weakened),
combination vaccine that protects against
the measles, mumps, and rubella viruses.
It was first licensed in the combined
form in 1971 and contains the safest
and most effective forms of each vaccine.
is made by taking the measles virus
from the throat of an infected person
and adapting it to grow in chick embryo
cells in a laboratory. As the virus
becomes better able to grow in the
chick embryo cells, it becomes less
able to grow in a child’s skin or lungs.
When this vaccine virus is given to
a child it replicates only a little
before it is eliminated from the body.
This replication causes the body to
develop an immunity that, in 95% of
children, lasts for a lifetime.
second dose of the vaccine is recommended
to protect those 5% who did not develop
immunity in the first dose and to give
"booster" effect to those
who did develop an immune response.
do NOT need
the measles, mumps, rubella vaccine
- You had blood tests that show you are immune to measles, mumps, and rubella.
- You are a man born before 1957.
- You are a woman born before 1957 who is sure she is not having more children, has already had rubella vaccine, or has had a positive rubella test.
- You already had two doses of MMR or one dose of MMR plus a second dose of measles vaccine.
- You already had one dose of MMR and are not at high risk of measles or mumps exposure.
SHOULD get the measles vaccine if you
are not among the categories listed
- You are a college student, trade school student, or other student beyond high school.
- You work in a hospital or other medical facility.
- You travel internationally, or are a passenger on a cruise ship.
- You are a woman of childbearing age.
to Measles Main Page
page last modified on January 16, 2007
Contents of this page last reviewed on February 15, 2001