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, two to three 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 five to six 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 percent of reported cases experiencing one or more complications. 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. Other complications include ear infections, pneumonia, and acute encephalitis (an inflammation of the brain). Measles can be especially severe in persons with compromised immune systems.

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.

Can someone get measles more than once?


Measles can be prevented with vaccination.

MMR vaccine contains live, attenuated (or weakened) strains of the measles, mumps, and rubella viruses.

How effective is the vaccine?

The first dose of MMR produces immunity to measles and rubella in 90 to 95 percent of recipients. The second dose of MMR is intended to produce immunity in those who did not respond to the first dose.

Which adolescents and adults should receive the MMR vaccine?

All unvaccinated adolescents without a valid contraindication to the vaccine should have documentation of two doses of MMR. All adults born in or after 1957 should also have documentation of vaccination or other evidence of immunity. Adults born before 1957 are likely to have had measles and/or mumps disease as a child and are generally (but not always) considered not to need vaccination.

What if I have additional questions?

If you have questions about your immunity, you can call your primary care physician or contact the IUP Health Service at 724-357-2550. More information on measles can be found on the CDC website.