Measles is an infection that spreads easily. It causes fever, cough, fatigue, runny nose, conjunctivitis, and a rash. It was once a common childhood illness, but it is now less common in the United States due to the use of the measles vaccine.
Measles is caused by a virus. The virus is spread by:
Measles can be spread:
Factors that may increase your risk of measles include:
Measles symptoms generally appear 8-12 days following exposure. They include:
Full recovery, without scarring, generally takes 7-10 days from the onset of the rash.
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Diagnosis is made from the symptoms and the rash. Lab tests are usually not needed.
Measles is caused by a virus. It cannot be treated with antibiotics. The focus is on relieving symptoms with rest and comfort measures such as:
Getting vaccinated is the best way to prevent measles. The vaccine contains live viruses that can no longer cause disease. There is a single vaccine to prevent measles. It is also available in combination with:
The regular schedule for giving the vaccine is at age 12-15 months and again at age 4-6 years. If you or your child has never been vaccinated against the measles, talk to the doctor.
In some cases, the MMR vaccine is given within 3 days after exposure. This can prevent or reduce symptoms. Immune globulin is given to certain unvaccinated people within 6 days of exposure. This is usually for infants and pregnant women.
If you or someone in your family gets measles, family members may need to be vaccinated or given immune globulin.
If you are not vaccinated, avoid contact with someone who has measles. Recent outbreaks of measles have occurred in Europe and the United States. They may have been caused by increasing numbers of children who are not vaccinated. Discuss the benefits of vaccination with your doctor.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Foundation for Infectious Diseases
Caring for Kids—Canadian Paediatric Society
Public Health Agency of Canada
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Measles. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated April 15, 2016. Accessed June 7, 2016.
Measles. World Health Organization website. Available at: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs286/en/. Updated March 2016. Accessed June 7, 2016.
Measles (rubeola). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2012/chapter-3-infectious-diseases-related-to-travel/measles-rubeola.htm. Updated September 10, 2015. Accessed June 7, 2016.
Peter G, Gardner P. Standards for immunization practice for vaccines in children and adults. Infect Dis Clin North Am. 2001;15:9-19.
5/27/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Measles—United States, January—May 20, 2011. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2011;60(20)666-668.
Last reviewed June 2016 by Marcie Sidman, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.