Measles is a viral disease that can spread rapidly. Measles is a childhood infection caused by a virus. Once quite common, measles can now almost always be prevented with a vaccine.
There are two types of measles:
Measles: This is the standard form caused by the rubella virus.
Rubella, or German measles: This is caused by the rubella virus.
Rubella generally presents as mild but presents more of a risk to unborn infants than young children if a woman contracts the virus while she is pregnant.
Measles signs and symptoms appear around 10 to 14 days after exposure to the virus. Signs and symptoms of measles typically include:
Risk factors for measles include:
Being unvaccinated. If you haven't received the vaccine for measles, you're much more likely to develop the disease.
Traveling internationally. If you travel to developing countries, where measles is more common, you're at higher risk of catching the disease.
Having vitamin A deficiency. If you don't have enough vitamin A in your diet, you're more likely to have more-severe symptoms and complications.
There's no specific treatment for an established measles infection. However, some measures can be taken to protect vulnerable individuals who have been exposed to the virus.
Post-exposure vaccination. No immunized people, including infants, may be given the measles vaccination within 72 hours of exposure to the measles virus to provide protection against the disease. If measles still develops, the illness usually has milder symptoms and lasts for a shorter time.
Immune serum globulin. Pregnant women, infants and people with weakened immune systems who are exposed to the virus may receive an injection of proteins (antibodies) called immune serum globulin. When given within six days of exposure to the virus, these antibodies can prevent measles or make symptoms less severe.
Fever reducers. You or your child may also take over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Children's Motrin, others) or naproxen (Aleve) to help relieve the fever that accompanies measles.
Don't give aspirin to children or teenagers who have measles symptoms. Though aspirin is approved for use in children older than age 3, children and teenagers recovering from chickenpox or flu-like symptoms should never take aspirin. This is because aspirin has been linked to Reye's syndrome, a rare but potentially life-threatening condition, in such children.
Antibiotics. If a bacterial infection, such as pneumonia or an ear infection, develops while you or your child has measles, your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic.
Vitamin A. Children with low levels of vitamin A are more likely to have a more severe case of measles. Giving vitamin A may lessen the severity of the measles. It's generally given as a large dose of 200,000 international units (IU) for children older than a year.