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Measles is a highly contagious virus that lives in the nose and throat mucus of an infected person.
Transmission of Measles
Measles is spread to others through coughing and sneezing, and the measles virus can live for up to two hours in an airspace where the infected person coughed or sneezed.
If other people breathe the contaminated air or touch the infected surface, then touch their eyes, noses, or mouths, they can become infected. Measles is so contagious that if one person has it, 90% of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected.
Measles is a disease of humans; measles virus is not spread by any other animal species.
Symptoms of Measles
Infected people can spread measles to others from four-days-before through four-days-after the rash appears. The symptoms of measles generally appear about seven to 14 days after a person is infected. Symptoms include:
- High fever
- Runny nose
- Red, watery eyes
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 spreads 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. After a few days, the fever subsides and the rash fades.
Prevention of Measles Transmission
Some people think of measles as just a little rash and fever that clears up in a few days, but measles can cause serious health complications, especially in children younger than 5 years of age. There is no way to tell in advance the severity of the symptoms your child will experience.
- About 1 in 4 people in the U.S. who get measles will be hospitalized
- 1 out of every 1,000 people with measles will develop brain swelling, which could lead to brain damage
- 1 or 2 out of 1,000 people with measles will die, even with the best care
Measles is very contagious. Your child can still get measles in United States. You have the power to protect your child against measles with a safe and effective vaccine. The best protection against measles is measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine. MMR vaccine provides long-lasting protection against all strains of measles. Your child needs two doses of MMR vaccine for best protection:
- The first dose at 12 through 15 months of age
- The second dose at 4 through 6 years of age
Symptoms may be relieved by the application of intermittent ice or heat to the affected area and by acetaminophen for pain relief. Warm saltwater gargles, soft foods, and extra fluids may also help relieve symptoms. Acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin) is not used to treat children due to the risk of Reye's syndrome.
There are currently no travel recommendations related to measles, but because it is a common disease in many parts of the world, travelers should protect themselves against it by ensuring they are properly vaccinated.