Measles is an acute viral respiratory illness. It is characterized by a prodrome of fever (as high as 105°F) and malaise, cough, coryza, and conjunctivitis - the three “C”s -, a pathognomonic enanthema (Koplik spots) followed by a rash. The rash usually appears about 14 days after a person is exposed. The rash spreads from the head to the lower extremities. Patients are considered to be contagious from 4 days before to 4 days after the rash appears.
Measles is one of the most contagious of all infectious diseases; approximately 9 out of 10 susceptible persons with close contact to a measles patient will develop measles. The virus is transmitted by direct contact with infectious droplets or by airborne spread when an infected person breathes, coughs, or sneezes. Measles virus can remain infectious in the air for up to two hours after an infected person leaves an area.
People at High Risk From Measles
People at high risk for severe illness and complications from measles include:
- Infants and children aged <5 years
- Adults aged >20 years
- Pregnant women
- People with compromised immune systems, such as from leukemia and HIV infection
There is no specific antiviral therapy for measles. Medical care is supportive and to help relieve symptoms and address complications such as bacterial infections.
Measles can be prevented with measles-containing vaccine, which is primarily administered as the combination measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine. The combination measles-mumps-rubella-varicella (MMRV) vaccine can be used for children aged 12 months through 12 years for protection against measles, mumps, rubella and varicella. Single-antigen measles vaccine is not available.