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Disease: Measles Measles
Category: Infectious diseases

Disease Definition:

A common childhood disease that now can be prevented with a vaccine is measles. A red, blotchy skin rash, fever, sore throat, inflamed eyes, runny nose and cough are included in the signs and symptoms of measles.


For small children, measles, which is also called rubeola, can be serious and even fatal. The disease still kills several hundred thousand people a year, most under the age of 5, while death rates have been falling worldwide as more children receive the measles vaccine.


As more people have chosen not to vaccinate their children, there has been a recent resurgence of the disease.

Work Group:

Symptoms, Causes


10 to 12 days after exposure to the virus, measles signs and symptoms appear, which include the following:


  • A skin rash made up of flat, large blotches that often flow into one another
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Runny nose
  • Dry cough
  • Inflamed eyes, a condition conjunctivitis
  • Fever
  • Koplik's spots, which are tiny white spots with bluish-white centers found inside the mouth on the inner lining of the cheek



Accompanied by other signs and symptoms like sore throat, runny nose, inflamed eyes (conjunctivitis) and a persistent cough, measles typically begins with a mild to moderate fever. Koplik's spots, a characteristic sign of measles, appear two or three days later. A fever spikes after that, usually as high as 104 or 105 F (40 or 40.6 C). Mostly on the face, behind the ears and along the hairline, a red blotchy rash appears at the same time. Downward to the chest and back and, finally to the thighs and feet, this slightly itchy rash rapidly spreads. The rash fades in the same sequence that it appeared after about a week.


If a person or his/her child exhibits symptoms that make them suspect measles or if they think they may have been exposed to measles, the doctor should be called. Especially before starting elementary school, before college and before international travel, the family's immunization records should be reviewed with the doctor.


A very contagious virus that lives in the mucus in the nose and throat of an infected adult or child is the cause of measles. From four days before the rash appears to four days after, that adult or child is contagious.


Infected droplets spray into the air where other people can inhale them when someone with measles talks, sneezes or coughs. They may also land on a surface, where the infected droplets remain active and contagious for several hours. After touching the infected surface, one can contract the virus by rubbing the eyes or putting the fingers in the mouth or nose.

Vitamin A deficiency:

People who don't have enough vitamin A in their diets are more likely to contract measles and to have more-severe symptoms.

No vaccination:

The disease is much more likely to develop in people who have not received the vaccine for measles.

International travel:

The risk of catching the disease is higher in people that are unvaccinated and traveling to developing countries where measles is more common.



It takes about 10 to 14 days for people to recover from measles. Complications will develop in as many as 20%; they may be:

Bronchitis, laryngitis or croup:

Inflammation of the inner walls that line the main air passageways of the lungs (bronchial tubes) or inflammation of the voice box (larynx) may be caused by measles.


One of the common complications of measles is pneumonia. An especially dangerous variety of pneumonia that is sometimes fatal can develop in people with compromised immune systems.

Pregnancy problems:

Because the disease can cause babies with low birth weights, premature labor or miscarriage, pregnant women need to take special care to avoid measles. Birth defects during pregnancy can be caused by rubella or German measles, which is a separate disease.

Ear infection:

Bacterial ear infection is one of the most common complications of measles.

Low platelet count (thrombocytopenia):

Measles may lead to a decrease in platelets, the type of blood cells that are essential for blood clotting.


Encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain that may cause convulsions, vomiting and, in rare cases, coma or even death, is developed in about 1 in 1,000 people with measles.  Encephalitis can occur years later after measles, or it can closely follow the condition.


No treatment is able to get rid of an established measles infection. However, to protect vulnerable individuals who have been exposed to the virus, some procedures can be taken:

Immune serum globulin:

Immune serum globulin, which is an injection of proteins (antibodies) that can fight off infection, is received by people with weakened immune systems, infants and pregnant women who are exposed to the virus. These antibodies can make symptoms less severe or prevent measles when given within six days of exposure to the virus.

Post-exposure vaccination:

To provide protection against the disease, the measles vaccination may be given to the nonimmunized people including infants, within 72 hours of exposure to the measles virus. The illness lasts for a shorter time and usually has milder symptoms in case it still develops.




The doctor may prescribe an antibiotic if a bacterial infection like pneumonia or an ear infection develops while a child or an adult has measles.


To help relieve the fever that accompanies measles, over-the-counter medications such as naproxen, ibuprofen or acetaminophen may be also taken by a child or an adult. Because of the risk of Reye's syndrome, which is a rare but potentially fatal disease, children shouldn't be given acetylsalicylic acid.



People with measles shouldn't return to activities in which they interact with other people during this period, because measles is highly contagious from about four days before to four days after the rash breaks out. Keeping nonimmunized people, such as siblings, out of the infected person's house may also be necessary. People shout talk to a doctor about how to keep a person with measles isolated.


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Consultants Corner

Samir Moussa M.D.

Samir Moussa M.D. ENT Specialist

Dr. Samer Al-Jneidy

Dr. Samer Al-Jneidy Pediatrician

Dr. Talal Sabouni


Dr . Dirar Abboud

Dr . Dirar Abboud Hepatologist – Gastroenterologist

Dr. Hani Najjar

Dr. Hani Najjar Pediatrics, Neurology

Yaser Habrawi , F.R.C.S.Ed

Yaser Habrawi , F.R.C.S.Ed Consultant Ophthalmologist

Dr. Faisal Dibsi

Dr. Faisal Dibsi Specialist of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery

Dr. Tahsin Martini

Dr. Tahsin Martini Degree status: M.D. in Ophthalmology

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