• Thu. Jun 30th, 2022

Measles and its symptoms, causes, and risk factors



Measles is a childhood contagious(infection) caused by a virus. Measles, once very common, can now be prevented by vaccination.

Also known as rubeola, measles is serious and dangerous for young children. Globally more children are getting the measles vaccine and the death rate is declining and the disease is still killing more than 100,000 people a year, most of them under the age of 5.

Measles has not been widespread in the United States for more than a decade, usually as a result of high vaccination rates. There were 30 measles cases in the United States in 2004, but more than 600 cases in 2014. Most of these cases occurred outside the country and occurred to those who were not vaccinated or did not know whether they had been vaccinated or not.


Measles signs appear around 10 to 14 days after exposure to the virus. Symptoms of measles generally include:

  • Sore throat.
  • Fever.
  • Dry cough.
  • Runny nose.
  • A skin rash made up of large, flat blotches that often flow into one another. 
  • Inflamed eyes (conjunctivitis).
  • Small white spots with bluish-white centers on a red background are found inside the mouth on the inner lining of the cheek also called Koplik’s spots.

The infection occurs at one stage for two to three weeks.

  • Infection and incubation. For the first 10 to 14 days after you are infected, the measles virus will hatch. At this time you have no signs or symptoms of measles.
  • Nonspecific signs and symptoms. Measles usually begins with a mild to moderate fever, often with a persistent cough, runny nose, swollen eyes (conjunctivitis), and sore throat. The disease is relatively mild and lasts for two or three days.
  • Acute illness and rash. The rash has small red spots, some of which are slightly elevated. The spots and bumps on the tight bunches give the skin a split red look. The face breaks first.
  • Over the next few days, the rash spreads to the hands and torso, and then to the thighs, lower legs, and feet. At the same time, the fever rises sharply, often ranging from 104 to 105.8 F (40 to 41 C). The measles rash gradually subsides, first disappearing from the face, and finally from the thighs and legs.
  • Communicable period. A person with measles can spread the virus to others for eight days, starting four days before the rash occur and lasting up to four days.


Measles is a highly contagious disease caused by a virus that affects the nose and throat of an infected child or adult. Then, when a person with measles coughs, sneezes, or speaks, the infected droplets are sprayed into the air, where others can inhale them.

Affected droplets may land on a surface where they remain active and infectious for several hours. You can get the virus by placing your fingers in your mouth or nose or by rubbing your eyes after touching the affected surface.

90% of people who are exposed to the virus will be infected.

Risk factors

Risk factors for measles include:

  • Being unvaccinated. If you have not been vaccinated against measles, you are more likely to develop the disease.
  • Traveling internationally. If you travel to developing countries where measles is most common, you are at higher risk of catching the disease.
  • Having a vitamin A deficiency. If you do not have enough vitamin A in your diet, you are more likely to have severe symptoms and complications.

When to see a doctor

Call your doctor if you think you or your child may have measles or if you or your child has a rash like measles.

Check your family’s immunization records with your doctor, especially before your children start elementary school or college and travel internationally.