What You Need to Know About Measles

The measles outbreak has been a top story in the news for several months. As of March 6, 2015, more than 170 people from 17 states have been infected with the disease. Most of these cases ahave been linked to Disneyland in Anaheim, California. Although measles is still a common disease in several parts of the world, it has been virtually silent in the United States for many years.

For parents with young children, the possibility of catching this virus can be scary.

So what should you know about measles?


Signs of measles usually surface about seven to 14 days after a person has been infected, and are often similar to symptoms of other viral illnesses. Symptoms include:

  • high fever
  • cough
  • runny nose
  • red, watery eyes

The red, bumpy rash associated with measles can appear three to five days after the initial signs listed above. It typically starts at the hairline and will travel down towards the neck, trunk, arms, legs, and feet.

Measles is not life threatening in most cases. However, in more serious illnesses or when it affects persons with fragile immune systems, such as babies or elderly, measles can lead to hearing loss or even swelling of the brain (encephalitis).


Measles is a highly contagious virus, infecting 90% of unvaccinated people who come into contact with it. The virus lives in the nose and throat mucus of an infected person and can be spread to others by coughing or sneezing. The virus is most contagious before the rash appears, which is often before the infected person realizes he is infected.

Treatment and Prevention

There is no treatment for measles. The best line of defense is immunization. It is strongly advised that kids receive the MMR, or measles-mumps-rubella vaccine, at 12 to 15 months and then again at four to six years of age.  The second dose is important. It adds another layer of protection for your child.

If you suspect your child has been exposed to the disease, contact your doctor immediately.

Click here to learn more about measles from kidshealth.org.

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