Measles is a highly contagious respiratory infection. It is caused by a virus. It usually spreads when a person comes in contact with droplets from coughs or sneezes of someone with the virus. The symptoms of measles occur about 8 to 12 days after coming in contact with a person with the virus.
Those most at risk for measles are:
Children and adults who never received the measles vaccine
Infants too young to receive the vaccine (under 1 year of age)
People with weak immune systems, even if they’ve been vaccinated against measles
Adults born in 1957 or later who are not known to be immune to measles
Early symptoms of measles include:
Inflammation and redness of covering of the eye (conjunctivitis)
Tiny white spots inside the mouth (Koplik spots)
The red spots of the measles rash appear 2 to 4 days later. The rash often starts on the face and then spreads to the rest of the body.
Your health care provider can diagnose measles based on the signs and symptoms. Lab tests are used to identify the virus.
Vitamin A is used to treat measles in children. It lessens the chance of serious complications and death. Other treatment includes:
Keeping your child away from other people
Medication for fever
Antibiotic medication for bacterial infections that develop
Hospitalization if complications develop
Most children recover with no lasting effects. But measles can lead to serious complications or even death. Complications of measles include the following:
Middle ear infection
Infection of the lungs (pneumonia)
Infection of the upper airway with trouble breathing and cough (croup)
Infection of the brain (encephalitis)
The measles vaccine is part of the routine immunizations recommended for children. Children should be vaccinated for measles with 2 doses:
First dose at 12 to 15 months of age
Second dose at 4 to 6 years of age
For persons who have not been vaccinated, vaccination up to 3 days after exposure to measles may prevent the disease.
Call your child's health care provider right away if you suspect measles. Get emergency care if your child has:
A fever higher than 105°F (40.5°C)
A severe headache
Confusion or clumsiness