Measles (Rubeola)

Measles is a highly contagious viral infection caused by the measles virus and primarily affects children. The illness can be mild with cough, runny nose, fever and red rash or lead to serious infection of the lung and central nervous system. It is one of the most highly contagious viral illnesses and easily preventable with vaccinations.

Where does it occur?

It occurs worldwide. Prevalence is highest in developing countries. Eastern Europe and Russia also pose a risk for travelers.

How is it transmitted?

It is transmitted by breathing in air containing the measles virus or contact with nasal and oral secretions of infected individuals. Rarely, it can be spread by contact with articles freshly contaminated with respiratory secretions.

Is it contagious from person to person?

It is highly contagious from person to person and remains contagious throughout the period of illness.

What is the risk for travelers?

Potential risk for the unvaccinated traveler is high in developing nations, Eastern Europe and Russia.

How soon after exposure will I develop symptoms?

Symptoms develop anywhere from 1-2 weeks after exposure.

What are the signs and symptoms?

Symptoms include fever, fatigue, cough, runny nose along with sores in the mouth called Koplik spots that are ulcers with a red base and whitish to bluish center. Subsequently a blotchy red rash occurs that starts on the face and spreads to the body.

Complications include development of pneumonia with cough and shortness of breath. Central nervous system infection can result in headache seizures and changes in consciousness.

Are there any lab tests to diagnose the illness?

Blood antibody tests are available.

Is there any treatment?

Treatment is mainly supportive with fluids, Tylenol, etc. Bacterial infections that occur as a complication are treated with antibiotics. Vitamin A has been shown to decrease the severity of measles.

What preventive measures can be taken?

Measles vaccine is preventive.

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