Measels (Rubeola)

Q1: What is measles?

Measles is an acute and serious infection caused by the measles virus. It causes a rash, with cough, runny nose, conjunctivitis and high fever. The disease is very infectious and is commonly affected young children. However, anyone can catch the viral infection at any age. It is highly contagious disease.

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Q2: What causes measles?

The disease is transmitted through direct contact with an infected person or through the air when the infected person coughs or sneezes. It is so infectious that it can be transmitted easily through air.

Q3: When is measles most infectious?

The most infectious period of the measles illness is during the four days before and four days after rash onset. During the four days before rash onset the person with this infection will usually not know that he is suffering from this viral infection, therefore during this time they can easily transmit the virus. Once the rash develops people may know and during this time they are less likely to transmit the virus (although still infectious) because they are at home.

Q4: Incubation period of measles?

The incubation period ( time from exposure to the virus until the first symptoms develop is 10-12 days and from exposure to rash onset is14 days (7-18 days).

Q5: What are the symptoms of measles?

The first stage of measles includes :


-a runny nose,

-conjunctivitis (red eyes),

-a hacking cough and

-an increasing fever that comes and goes.

These symptoms usually last for 2-4 days (occasionally up to 7 days). The rash starts from day 4. It starts on the forehead and spreads downwards over the face, neck and body. The rash consists of flat red or brown blotches. It lasts about 4-7 days. There can also be diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal pain.

Q6: Are complications common with measles?

Yes, complications are quite common. They include a severe cough and breathing difficulties, ear infections, viral and bacterial lung infections (pneumonia) , and eye infections (conjunctivitis).

More serious problems involve the nervous system and are very rare. Inflammation of the brain (acute encephalitis) occurs 2-6 days after the rash has appeared. Measles infection during pregnancy can result in the loss or early birth of the baby.
Complications are most likely in infants under 12 months, those with weakened immune systems, and the malnourished.

Q7: Can measles be prevented?

A vaccine that contains measles-mumps-rubella vaccines as a combined vaccine (called MMR) is used to prevent measles (as well as mumps and rubella). The vaccine produces mild infection that does not cause disease or harm to the child. The MMR vaccine stimulates antibodies in the child to protect against the wild measles virus if the child is exposed to the virus.

Q8: How effective is MMR in preventing measles?

MMR vaccine can prevent measles in over 95% of children given MMR at or after 12 months of age.

Q9: When is MMR vaccine given?

The first dose is given at 12 months and the second dose at 4-5 years of age. MMR vaccine can also given to those who need it (not immune) at any age.

Q10: Is MMR contraindicated?

The administration of MMR vaccine is contraindicated if an individual has any of the following

  • Anaphylaxis (severe threatening allergic reaction) to any of the vaccine constituents
  • Significantly immune compromised persons, such as those with untreated malignant disease and immunodeficiency states other than HIV infection, and those who are receiving immunosuppressive therapy, high-dose x-ray therapy and current high-dose systemic corticosteroids
  • Pregnancy – pregnancy should be avoided for one month after MMR.

Q11: What should I do if I think my child has measles?

Keep your child at home if you think that he/she might have measles. Consult your physician before the disease became complicated.

Q12: Can I get measles even if vaccinated?

Maybe, more than 93% of people who receive MMR vaccination develop immunity to measles.

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