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Measles

What is measles?
Where is measles found?
What are the symptoms of measles?
How is measles spread?
How can I keep from getting measles?
If I’ve been exposed to measles, how long will it take for symptoms to develop?
What treatments are available for measles? How serious is the disease?
Where can I get more information on measles?

What is measles?A boy with measles, photo courtesy of the Public Health Image Library
Measles is a respiratory disease caused by a virus. It is a highly contagious disease.

Where is measles found?
Measles are found worldwide, but are more prominent in countries with low vaccination rates, such as India and some countries in Africa. In the United States, cases of measles generally originate outside of the country.

What are the symptoms of measles?

Early symptoms resemble a cold with fever, cough, runny nose, and watery, red eyes. On the third to seventh day, a red blotchy rash appears. The rash usually begins at the hairline on the face, spreading down the trunk and out the arms and legs. The rash usually lasts four to seven days. Measles is sometimes complicated by ear infection, pneumonia or diarrhea.

Rarely, inflammation of the brain (encephalitis) may occur, which can lead to convulsions, deafness or mental retardation. Death is rare.

How is measles spread?
Measles is highly contagious and spreads by droplets that are expelled during sneezing and coughing. The measles virus can sometimes float on dust particles in the air and infect others for about two hours after a person with measles leaves the room. It can also spread by touching your eyes, nose or mouth after handling contaminated items.  

How can I keep from getting measles?

  1. If you develop cold-like symptoms with a fever and/or rash, stayat home and contact your health care provider for diagnosis. Please do not go to any clinic or emergency room without calling first. They will want to prevent further spread
  2. Refer to the Kentucky immunization regulations for childhood vaccination schedule.
  3. Adults born on or after January 1, 1957, who have not had two doses of measles vaccine after 12 months of age should be immunized.
  4. If you or your child is not protected, contact your health care provider or your local public health clinic as soon as possible to obtain your immunizations. Children who have not received measles vaccine will be excluded from any child care setting in which a case of measles occurs.
  5. Practice good hand hygiene.



If I’ve been exposed to measles, how long will it take for symptoms to develop?
The initial symptoms of measles can occur between seven and 14 days after exposure.

What treatments are available for measles? How serious is the disease?
There is no specific treatment for measles, other than rest. Complications from measles can develop, such as pneumonia, ear infections, bronchitis, encephalitis, sinusitis and bronchitis. Death from the disease is rare.

Where can I get more information on measles?
For more information online, you can visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or call the Health Department at 859.363.2070.

Sources: Northern Kentucky Health Department, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention