Information about Measles and Vaccines
What causes measles?
Measles is caused by a virus.
How does measles spread?
Measles is spread from person to person through the air by infectious droplets; it is highly contagious.
How long does it take to show signs of measles after being exposed?
It takes an average of 10–12 days from exposure to the first symptom, which is usually fever. The measles rash doesn’t usually appear until approximately 14 days after exposure, 2–3 days after the fever begins.
What are the symptoms of measles?
Symptoms include fever, runny nose, cough, loss of appetite, “pink eye,” and a rash. The rash usually lasts 5–6 days and begins at the hairline, moves to the face and upper neck, and proceeds down the body.
How serious is measles?
Measles can be a serious disease, with 30% of reported cases experiencing one or more complications. Death from measles occurs in 2 to 3 per 1,000 reported cases in the United States. Complications from measles are more common among very young children (younger than five years) and adults (older than 20 years).
What are possible complications from measles?
Diarrhea is the most common complication of measles (occurring in 8% of cases), especially in young children. Ear infections occur in 7% of reported cases. Pneumonia, occurring in 6% of reported cases, accounts for 60% of measles-related deaths. Approximately one out of one thousand cases will develop acute encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain. This serious complication can lead to permanent brain damage.
Measles during pregnancy increases the risk of premature labor, miscarriage, and low-birth-weight infants, although birth defects have not been linked to measles exposure.
Measles can be especially severe in persons with compromised immune systems. Measles is more severe in malnourished children, particularly those with vitamin A deficiency. In developing countries, the fatality rate may be as high as 25%.
How is measles diagnosed?
Measles is diagnosed by a combination of the patient’s symptoms and by laboratory tests.
Is there a treatment for measles?
There is no specific treatment for measles. People with measles need bed rest, fluids, and control of fever. Patients with complications may need treatment specific to their problem.
How long is a person with measles contagious?
Measles is highly contagious and can be transmitted from four days before the rash becomes visible to four days after the rash appears.
What should be done if someone is exposed to measles?
Notification of the exposure should be communicated to a doctor. If the person has not been vaccinated, measles vaccine may prevent disease if given within 72 hours of exposure. Immune globulin (a blood product containing antibodies to the measles virus) may prevent or lessen the severity of measles if given within six days of exposure.
How common is measles in the United States?
Before the vaccine was licensed in 1963, there were an estimated 3–4 million cases each year. In the years following 1963, the number of measles cases dropped dramatically, with only 1,497 cases in 1983, the lowest annual total reported up to that time.
By 2004, only 37 cases were reported—a record low. However, new cases continue to be reported, primarily in populations that have refused vaccination for religious or personal belief reasons. From 2001 through 2011, an average of 63 measles cases (range, 37 to 220) and four outbreaks were reported each year in the United States.
Of the 911 cases, a total of 372 (41%) were imported from outside the U.S. and an additional 432 (47%) were associated with importations. Hospitalization was reported for 225 (25%) cases. Two deaths were reported. Most cases occur among people who declined vaccination because of a religious, or personal objection.
Can someone get measles more than once?