Vaccine preventable disease: Measles

What it is: The measles (or rubeola) is a serious disease. It is an easily spread viral infection of the respiratory system. Even though cases have declined in the last few decades in the United States, rates have begun to rise in recent years.

How it spreads: Contagions spread through droplets from the nasal and throat passageways and are released into the air with sneezing and coughing. The virus can remain airborne and active for up to two hours after the infected person has left the area. Over 90% of people without immunization who are exposed to the measles virus will contract the disease.

Signs and Symptoms of Measles:

The symptoms of measles generally appear about seven to 14 days after a person is infected.

Measles typically begins with

  • high fever,
  • cough,
  • runny nose (coryza), and
  • red, watery eyes (conjunctivitis).

Two or three days after symptoms begin, tiny white spots (Koplik spots) may appear inside the mouth.

Three to five days after symptoms begin, a rash breaks out. It usually begins as flat red spots that appear on the face at the hairline and spread downward to the neck, trunk, arms, legs, and feet. Small raised bumps may also appear on top of the flat red spots. The spots may become joined together as they spread from the head to the rest of the body. When the rash appears, a person’s fever may spike to more than 104° Fahrenheit.

CDC Photos of measles and Koplick spots

What it causes: Measles are well known for the splotchy rash that comes from infection. Other issues associated with Measles include:

  • Bloodshot, irritated eyes
  • Rash
  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Ear infection
  • Pneumonia
  • Light sensitivity
  • Muscle pain
  • Runny nose/sore throat
  • White spots in the mouth
  • Seizures
  • Brain damage
  • Death

What to do: Routine immunization drastically lowers the risk of a person contracting the measles.  Most children who get their MMR(Measles, Mumps, Rubella) shots will not get these diseases. Preventative vaccination keeps the majority of children healthy.
Children should get 2 doses of MMR vaccine:

  • The first at 12-15 months of age
  • And the second dose at 4-6 years of age.

These are recommended ages; children may get their second dose at any age, as long as it is at least 28 days after the first dose.

Some adults should get the MMR vaccine:

  • Generally anyone 18 years of age or older who was born after 1956 should get at least one dose of MMR vaccine, unless they can show that they have had either the vaccines or the disease.

Who should or shouldn’t get the vaccine?

Am I protected?

For more information regarding Measles outbreaks, please see the CDC link here.

Additional resources for Measles  and MMR immunization: