Measles

(Rubeola)

Definition

Measles is an infection that spreads quickly. It causes a fever and rash. It was once common in children. It is now less common in the United States due to the use of the measles vaccine.

Measles Rash

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Causes

Measles is caused by a virus. It is spread by:

  • Direct contact with nose or throat droplets of people who have measles, such as through kissing
  • Through the air, such as through coughing and sneezing (less common)

Measles can be spread:

  • 1 to 2 days before symptoms appear
  • 3 to 5 days before the rash
  • Up to 4 days after the rash

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk of this problem are:

  • Visiting places where measles is common
  • Not getting the measles immunization

Symptoms

Measles symptoms start 10 to 12 days after exposure. They are:

  • Fever, often high
  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Pain
  • Red eyes
  • Hacking cough
  • Sore throat
  • Lack of energy
  • Very small whitish spots inside the mouth
  • Raised, itchy red to brownish rash

Symptoms improve 7 to 10 days from the start of the rash.

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. This is enough to make the diagnosis.

Treatment

Measles is caused by a virus. It cannot be treated with antibiotics.

The goal of treatment is to manage symptoms until the virus passes. Choices are:

  • Supportive care, such as gargling with warm salt water and drinking plenty of fluids
  • Medicines to ease pain, such as acetaminophen

Prevention

Getting vaccinated is the best way to prevent measles. It comes as a single vaccine or with:

Some people may be given a vaccine within 3 days of exposure. This can prevent or lessen symptoms.

Immune globulin may also be given to some unvaccinated people within 6 days of exposure. This is usually for infants and pregnant women.

RESOURCES:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
http://www.cdc.gov
National Foundation for Infectious Diseases
http://www.nfid.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Caring for Kids—Canadian Paediatric Society
http://www.caringforkids.cps.ca
Public Health Agency of Canada
http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca

References:

Measles. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/measles. Accessed October 30, 2020.
Measles. World Health Organization website. Available at: https://www.who.int/health-topics/measles#tab=tab_1. Accessed October 30, 2020.
Measles (rubeola). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed October 30, 2020.
Moss WJ. Measles. Lancet. 2017 Dec 2;390(10111):2490-2502.
Last reviewed September 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board James P. Cornell, MD
Last Updated: 10/30/2020

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