Measles is caused by a virus, and infection in the United States is relatively uncommon. Unfortunately, there have large outbreaks over the past few years. Measles is characterized by 3-5 days of high fever, cough, runny nose and pink eye(s) that precede a full body rash. The rash starts on the forehead and gradually spreads down the entire body from head to feet – face, neck, chest/back/belly, then arms and legs. Children with measles may also get small red spots with blue-white centers in their mouths.

Why Is Everyone So Worked Up About the Measles?

Didn’t my parents and/or grandparents likely have the measles when they were children, and do just fine? Yes, probably. While the fever, cold/flu-like symptoms and rash are generally tolerated just fine, the measles virus can cause complications. Mild complications are things like ear infections. Worrisome complications include croup, pneumonia, dehydration, and encephalitis (swelling and inflammation of the brain). Encephalitis often causes permanent brain damage, and encephalitis occurs in about 1 of every 1000 cases of the measles. Since endemic (continuous, year round transmission) measles was declared eliminated in the U.S. in 2000, about 1 to 3 of every 1000 measles cases in the U.S. resulted in death, largely due to breathing or brain complications.

How Long Does Measles Last?

7-10 days

How Is Measles Spread?

Airborne respiratory droplets from coughing and sneezing.

How Contagious Is Measles?

Measles is one of the most contagious infections. About 90% of unimmunized close contacts of someone with the measles will become infected.

How Long Is A Patient With Measles Contagious?

Contagiousness starts 4 days before the rash appears and concludes 4 days after the rash first appeared.

If We Were Exposed To Someone With Measles, How Long Before We Would Show Symptoms?

It generally takes 8-12 days from when a person is exposed to when they start showing symptoms.

What If My Child Had the Vaccine(s)?

This is the single most important thing you can do to protect your children, as well as others who are not able to be vaccinated due to age, weakened immune systems or other medical conditions. About 93% of children make adequate immunity following the first MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) immunization, which we routinely administer at the 1 year old check up. We give a second immunization at 4-6 years old in an effort to catch 93% of the 7% for whom the first immunization did not create adequate immunity; this creates protection in more than 99% of children who have received both recommended vaccines.

What Should I Do If I Think My Child Has the Measles?

Please call our office immediately at (804) 282-4205 and ask to speak with one of our providers. Keep your child home, comfortable, and well hydrated until you’ve talked with a provider.

Resources: American Academy of Pediatrics Red Book, Centers for Disease Control and