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Measles

Overview

Measles is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by a virus. It spreads through the air through coughing and sneezing. Measles starts with a fever, runny nose, cough, red eyes, and sore throat, and is followed by a rash that spreads all over the body. About three out of 10 people who get measles will develop one or more complications including pneumonia, ear infections, or diarrhea.

Signs and Symptoms

The symptoms of measles generally appear about seven to 14 days after a person is infected. Measles typically begins with

  • high fever,
  • cough,
  • runny nose (coryza), and
  • red, watery eyes

Two or three days after symptoms begin, tiny white spots (Koplik spots) may appear inside the mouth. Three to five days after symptoms begin, a rash breaks out. It usually begins as flat red spots that appear on the face at the hairline and spread downward to the neck, trunk, arms, legs, and feet. Small raised bumps may also appear on top of the flat red spots. The spots may become joined together as they spread from the head to the rest of the body. When the rash appears, a person’s fever may spike to more than 104° Fahrenheit.

After a few days, the fever subsides and the rash fades.

Transmission

Measles is a highly contagious virus that lives in the nose and throat mucus of an infected person. It can spread to others through coughing and sneezing. Also, measles virus can live for up to two hours on a surface or in an airspace where the infected person coughed or sneezed. If other people breathe the contaminated air or touch the infected surface, then touch their eyes, noses, or mouths, they can become infected. Measles is so contagious that if one person has it, 90% of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected.

Infected people can spread measles to others from four days before to four days after the rash appears.

Measles is a disease of humans; measles virus is not spread by any other animal species.

Complications

Measles can be a serious in all age groups. However, children younger than 5 years of age and adults older than 20 years of age are more likely to suffer from measles complications.

Common Complications

Common measles complications include ear infections and diarrhea.

  • Ear infections occur in about one out of every 10 children with measles and can result in permanent hearing loss.
  • Diarrhea is reported in less than one out of 10 people with measles.

Severe Complications

Some people may suffer from severe complications, such as pneumonia (infection of the lungs) and encephalitis (swelling of the brain). They may need to be hospitalized and could die.

  • As many as one out of every 20 children with measles gets pneumonia, the most common cause of death from measles in young children.
  • About one child out of every 1,000 who get measles will develop encephalitis (swelling of the brain) that can lead to convulsions and can leave the child deaf or mentally retarded.
  • For every 1,000 children who get measles, one or two will die from it.

Measles may cause pregnant woman to give birth prematurely, or have a low-birth-weight baby.

Measles Vaccination

Measles can be prevented with the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine.

Measles Vaccine Recommendations from CDC

DCHHS provides the MMR vaccine for children and adults at the main clinic located at 2377 N. Stemmons Frwy. in Dallas, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information call 214-819-2163.

DCHHS provides the MMR vaccine for children only at clinics in the community.

Read more about measles on the CDC website.

For general questions or for more information about Dallas County Health and Human Services,
please email Director Zachary Thompson at: zachary.thompson@dallascounty.org

Zachary S. Thompson
Director
Christopher Perkins, D.O., M.P.H.
Medical Director / Health Authority

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