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Measles is a highly contagious infectious disease, caused by the measles virus.[1][2] It is also known as rubeola.

Measles virus.JPG

vs Rubella and Roseola

not to be confused with Rubella, (German measles) and roseola, which are different diseases, caused by unrelated viruses.[3]

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Onset of illness

Symptoms, usually develop 10–12 days after exposure to an infected person, and last 7–10 days.[4][5]

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Initial symptoms

Initial symptoms typically include, fever, often greater than 40 °C (104 °F), cough, runny nose, and inflamed eyes.[1][6]

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Koplik's spots

Small white spots, known as Koplik's spots, may form inside the mouth, two or three days after the start of symptoms.[6]

Koplik spots, measles 2019.jpg


but the classic sign, is a red (flat) rash, which usually starts on the face three to five days after the start of symptoms, and then spreads to the rest of the body.[6]


Common complications

About 7% of cases have complications, including diarrhea, middle ear infection, and pneumonia.[7]

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Less likely complications

Less commonly, seizures, blindness, or inflammation of the brain, may occur.[4][7]

Hsv encephalitis.jpg


Measles is an airborne disease, which spreads very easily, through the coughs and sneezes of infected people.[4]


Other ways to spread disease

It may also be spread through contact with saliva, or nasal secretions.[4]

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It is so contagious, that a single infected person will spread it to nine out of ten, non-immune people, who live with them.[7]

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Duration of contagiousness

One reason, is that it can be spread four days before a rash develops, and continue for four days after the start of the rash.[7]

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Fortunately, most people do not get the disease more than once.[4]

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Testing for the measles virus in suspected cases is important, for public health efforts.[7]

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The measles vaccine is effective at preventing the disease, and is often delivered in combination with other vaccines.[4]

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Vaccine effectiveness

Vaccination resulted in a 75% decrease in deaths from measles between 2000, and 2013, with about 85% of children worldwide being currently vaccinated.[4]



Once a person has become infected, no specific treatment is available,[4] but supportive care may improve outcomes.[4]

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Supportive care

This may include oral rehydration solution (slightly sweet and salty fluids), healthy food, and medications to control the fever.[4][5]

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Antibiotics may be used, if a secondary bacterial infection such as bacterial pneumonia occurs.[4]


Vitamin A

Vitamin A supplementation, is also recommended in the developing world.[4]

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Measles affects about 20 million people of all ages per year,[1] primarily in the developing areas of Africa, and Asia.[4][8]

Measles world map - DALY - WHO2004.svg

Preventable deaths

It is one of the leading vaccine-preventable disease causes of death.[9][10]

Measles in African Child.jpg

Decrease in deaths

In 1980, 2.6 million people died of it,[4] but by 2014, global vaccination programs had reduced the number of deaths to 73,000.[11][12]

Evolution of number of measles reported cases between 1980 and 2015.png

Increase in 2017

Rates of disease and deaths, however, increased in 2017 due to a decrease in immunization, and may be as high as 10% in people with malnutrition.[4]

US Measles Cases 2010-2018.png

Greatest risk

Most of those who die from the infection are less than five years old.[4][13] The overall risk of death among those infected is about 0.2%.[7]

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  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Caserta, MT, ed. (September 2013). "Measles". Merck Manual Professional. Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp. Archived from the original on 23 March 2014. Retrieved 23 March 2014.
  2. "Measles (Red Measles, Rubeola)". Dept of Health, Saskatchewan. Archived from the original on 10 February 2015. Retrieved 10 February 2015.
  3. Marx, John A. (2010). Rosen's emergency medicine: concepts and clinical practice (7th ed.). Philadelphia: Mosby/Elsevier. p. 1541. ISBN 9780323054720. Archived from the original on 2017-09-08.
  4. 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 4.11 4.12 4.13 4.14 4.15 "Measles Fact sheet N°286". November 2014. Archived from the original on 3 February 2015. Retrieved 4 February 2015.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Conn's Current Therapy 2015. Elsevier Health Sciences. 2014. p. 153. ISBN 9780323319560. Archived from the original on 2017-09-08.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 "Measles (Rubeola) Signs and Symptoms". November 3, 2014. Archived from the original on 2 February 2015. Retrieved 5 February 2015.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 Atkinson, William (2011). Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases (12 ed.). Public Health Foundation. pp. 301–23. ISBN 9780983263135. Archived from the original on 7 February 2015. Retrieved 5 February 2015.
  8. Chen S.S.P. (February 22, 2018). Measles (Report). Medscape. Archived from the original on September 25, 2011.
  9. Kabra, SK; Lodhra, R (14 August 2013). "Antibiotics for preventing complications in children with measles". Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 8 (8): CD001477. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD001477.pub4. PMID 23943263.
  10. "Despite the availability of a safe, effective and inexpensive vaccine for more than 40 years, measles remains a leading vaccine-preventable cause of childhood deaths" (PDF). Retrieved 16 February 2019.
  11. GBD 2015 Mortality and Causes of Death, Collaborators. (8 October 2016). "Global, regional, and national life expectancy, all-cause mortality, and cause-specific mortality for 249 causes of death, 1980–2015: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2015". Lancet. 388 (10053): 1459–544. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(16)31012-1. PMC 5388903. PMID 27733281.
  12. GBD 2013 Mortality and Causes of Death, Collaborators (17 December 2014). "Global, regional, and national age-sex specific all-cause and cause-specific mortality for 240 causes of death, 1990–2013: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013". Lancet. 385 (9963): 117–71. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(14)61682-2. PMC 4340604. PMID 25530442.
  13. "Measles cases spike globally due to gaps in vaccination coverage". WHO. 29 November 2018. Retrieved 21 December 2018.