Measles

About Measles

  • Measles (Rubeola) is a very contagious virus that can make you sick.
  • If you are not immune, you can get measles just by being in the same room with someone who has measles.
  • Measles can spread very easily from one person to another through the air when a sick person coughs or sneezes, or through nose or throat secretions.
  • The measles virus can stay in the air for up to two hours after a person with measles has been in the area.
  • Complications from measles may lead to a permanent disability, such as hearing loss, or—in a very small proportion of cases—death. 
  • There is no treatment for measles. Antibiotics do not work because measles is caused by a virus, not bacteria.
  • The best way to prevent measles is to get the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine.
Infographic with text measles is highly contagious and spreads through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It's so contagious that if one person has it, 9 out of 10 people around the person will become infected if not protected.

Symptoms

Measles symptoms usually appear seven to 14 days after a person is infected. Measles typically begins with:

  • High fever
  • Cough
  • Runny nose (coryza)
  • Red, watery eyes (conjunctivitis)

Two or three days after symptoms begin, small white spots, called Koplik spots, may also appear on the gums and inside of the cheeks.

Three to five days after symptoms begin, a red blotchy rash begins to appear on the face and spreads over the entire body.

If you have measles symptoms, call your healthcare provider. Do not go to their office without calling them and telling them about your symptoms first.

Measles symptoms infographic

Risk

People of any age can get measles. In the U.S., most cases are in unvaccinated infants, children, and teens. Adults at increased risk include college students, international travelers, and healthcare workers.

Thanks to the measles vaccine, the disease has nearly disappeared in the U.S. But, measles is common in many parts of the world. Recent outbreaks in the U.S. have been linked to unvaccinated travelers bringing the disease from another country and giving it to others who are not immune to the disease.

Prevention

  • The measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine is the best way to prevent measles.
  • The CDC recommends that children get one dose of MMR between 12 and 15 months, and a second dose between four and six years of age.
  • Teenagers and adults who have not been vaccinated with two doses, or who have not had measles, should also get the MMR.
  • To get the MMR vaccine, contact your healthcare provider or Arlington County Public Health Division at 703-228-1200.  

 

Treatment

There is no specific treatment for the measles, but your healthcare provider may treat the symptoms. This may include fluids, medications to control fever or pain, antibiotics to treat secondary infections from bacteria, and vitamin A supplements.