Measles (Rubeola)


What is measles?
Measles is a respiratory disease that causes a rash and fever. It is highly contagious. Measles can spread to others through coughing and sneezing. The measles virus can live up to two hours in an airspace where the infected person coughed or sneezed. If other people breathe the contaminated air or touch contaminated surfaces, 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.

What are the symptoms for measles?
The symptoms of measles generally begin about seven to 14 days after exposure but can take as long as 21 days. The symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Runny nose
  • Red, watery eyes
  • Cough
  • Tiny white spots with bluish-white mouth (Koplik spots)
  • Rash
Example of Measles
Mouth of a patient with Koplik spots.

Example of Measles
Maculopapular rash on face of a patient with measles.

A typical case of measles begins with fever, cough, runny nose, and red eyes. Two or three days after symptoms begin, tiny white spots may appear inside the mouth. Three to five days after the start of symptoms, a flat red rash appears on the face, usually at the hairline, and spreads downward to the chest and back. When the rash appears, the fever may spike to more than 104 degrees Fahrenheit. After a few days, the fever usually subsides and the rash fades in the order it appeared.

How long is a person with measles contagious?
Infected people can spread measles to others from four days before through four days after the rash appears.

Is there treatment for measles?
There is no treatment or cure for measles. Medical care is supportive and can help relieve symptoms and address any complications that may develop.

Are there any complications of measles?
Measles can be a serious in all age groups. However, children younger than 5 years of age and adults older than 20 years of age are more likely to suffer from measles complications. Common measles complications include ear infections and diarrhea. Some people may suffer from severe complications, such as pneumonia (infection of the lungs) and encephalitis (swelling of the brain). Complications can result in hospitalization and even death. Measles may cause pregnant woman to give birth prematurely or have a low-birth-weight baby.

What should I do if I’ve been exposed to measles?
If you have been exposed to measles and have a fever, stay home except to see a health care provider. If you need to see your health care provider, call ahead so that appropriate measures can be taken to avoid spreading measles to others.

What is the best way to prevent measles?
Getting the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine is the best way to prevent measles.

BEST PROTECTION AGAINST MEASLES? Vaccinate.

You are considered to be protected against the measles virus if you have records showing:

       •  You have received one or two doses of the measles containing (MMR) vaccine
       •  You have had a laboratory confirm that you had measles
       •  You have had a laboratory confirm that you are immune to measles
       •  You were born before 1957.

Who should receive the MMR vaccine?
       •  Children 12 months of age or older should have 2 doses:
                 •  First dose at age 12 to 15 months
                 •  Second dose between 4 to 6 years.
       • Adults who do not have evidence of immunity should get at least one dose of MMR vaccine.
       • Certain adults should receive two doses of MMR.
                 •  Healthcare personnel (not just clinical staff)
                 •  Students at post-secondary institutions (such as colleges or vocational schools)
                 •  International travelers.

Clarification of recommendations:
       •  Adults born before 1989 and only received one dose of MMR do not need to receive a second dose.
       •  There is no recommendation for vaccination campaigns among adults or individuals in non-affected areas to prevent           measles outbreaks. 

What are the international travel recommendations for MMR vaccine?
       •  Infants 6 months through 11 months of age should receive one dose of MMR vaccine.
       •  Children 12 months of age and older should receive two doses of MMR vaccine, separated by at least 28 days.
       •  Adults with documentation of one dose of MMR vaccine should get a second dose. Adults who do not have evidence of           immunity against measles should get two doses of MMR vaccine, separated by at least 28 days.

Additional Information:
Kansas MMR Vaccination Coverage among Children |
Measles Information for Healthcare Professionals |
Measles Information for Parents |
Measles Travel Vaccine Assessment Tool