What Are Measles? A Brief Review

Measles have made an appearance back on the West Coast, leaving many with questions about the highly infectious disease. It is important to protect against measles, because it is the most easily transmitted of all childhood fever and rash illnesses.

However, Measles can be prevented with a combined vaccination for measles, mumps and rubella (MMR). Children should be given the first MMR vaccine at 12 to 15 months of age. The second dose can be given as early as four weeks after the first dose, but is typically given before the start of kindergarten (age 4-6). Below is information about the disease:

What causes measles?

Measles is caused by a virus and spread from person to person through the air by infectious droplets from sneezing or coughing.

How long after exposure do symptoms show?

The first symptom, usually a fever, appears an average 10-12 days after exposure. The measles rash doesn’t usually appear until approximately 14 days after exposure, 2-3 days after the fever begins and lasts 5-6 days.

Is there a cure for measles?

There is no specific cure for measles other than the MMR vaccine as a preventative measure. People with measles need bed rest, fluids, and control of fever. Patients with complications may need treatment specific to their problem.

What should be done if someone is exposed to measles?

If the person has not been vaccinated, the measles vaccine may prevent disease if given within 72 hours of exposure.

What options for treatment are available?

A vaccine that combines both the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) and varicella (chickenpox) vaccines, known as MMRV are available.

Who should get this vaccine?

All children, adolescents, and adults born in 1957 or later without a valid contraindication should have documentation of vaccination or other evidence of immunity. Additionally, some healthcare personnel who were born before 1957 may also need proof of vaccination or other evidence of immunity.

How is this vaccine given?

The vaccine is a shot given in two doses. The first dose of MMR should be given on or after the child’s first birthday; the recommended age range is from 12-15 months. The second dose is usually given when the child is 4-6 years old, or before he or she enters kindergarten or first grade. However, the second dose can be given earlier as long as there has been a separation of at least 28 days since the first dose. Visit http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/measles/default.htm for comprehensive information on measles vaccinations.