Measles, a childhood illness caused by a virus, was once widespread, is now largely preventable through vaccination.
Measles is identifiable by a unique red, blotchy rash that usually begins on the face and behind the ears, then spreads downward to the chest, back, and eventually to the feet. Also known as rubeola, measles is highly contagious and poses serious risks, including death, especially for young children. Although mortality rates have decreased globally due to higher measles vaccination rates among children, the disease still claims over 200,000 lives each year, with children being the most vulnerable.


Measles symptoms manifest approximately 10 to 14 days following exposure to the virus. Common signs and symptoms of measles include:

  • Fever
  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Dry cough
  • Conjunctivitis (eye inflammation)
  • Koplik’s spots, which are tiny white dots with bluish-white centers on a red background that are located inside the mouth on the inner lining of the cheek
  • A rash on the skin composed of large, flat blotches that frequently merge together

The infection progresses through stages over a period of 2 to 3 weeks.

  • Infection and incubation. During the initial 10 to 14 days post-infection, the measles virus proliferates within the body without exhibiting any signs or symptoms of the illness.
  • Nonspecific signs and symptoms. Typically, measles begins with a mild to moderate fever, often accompanied by a persistent cough, a runny nose, irritated eyes (conjunctivitis), and a sore throat. This initial phase of relatively mild symptoms may endure for 2 to 3 days.
  • Acute illness and rash. The rash consists of small red spots, some of which are slightly raised. These spots and bumps appear in close clusters, resulting in a blotchy red appearance of the skin. The rash typically begins on the face. In the subsequent days, the rash extends downwards over the arms, chest, and back, and further down to the thighs, lower legs, and feet. Simultaneously, the fever escalates dramatically, frequently reaching temperatures as high as 104 to 105.8 F (40 to 41 C).
  • Recovery. The measles rash typically persists for approximately seven days. It diminishes gradually, starting from the face and concluding on the thighs and feet. Even after other symptoms of the illness subside, the cough and darkening or peeling of the affected skin may persist for about 10 days.

A person infected with measles can spread the virus to others for about eight days, starting four days before the rash appears and ending four days after the rash appears.

If you suspect you or your child have been exposed to measles, or if you notice a rash similar to measles, it’s important to contact your doctor. It’s also advisable to review your family’s vaccination records with your doctor, especially before your children start daycare, school, or college, and before any international travel outside your country.


Measles is an extremely contagious disease, easily transmitted from one person to another. It originates from a virus found in the nose and throat of an infected individual, whether they are a child or an adult. When someone with measles coughs, sneezes, or talks, tiny infectious droplets are released into the air. These droplets can be inhaled by others and remain airborne for up to an hour. Furthermore, these infectious droplets can settle on surfaces, where the virus can survive and spread for several hours. You can become infected with the measles virus by touching a contaminated surface and then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes.

Measles is highly contagious from approximately four days before the rash appears to four days after. Around 90% of individuals who have not had measles before or have not been vaccinated are susceptible to contracting the virus when exposed to an infected person.

Risk factors

Factors that increase the risk of measles comprise:

  • Lacking a vaccination. You have a far higher chance of contracting the measles if you have not received the vaccination.
  • Going abroad on travel. You run a larger risk of contracting measles if you visit nations where the illness is more widespread.
  • Being deficient in vitamin A. You run the risk of experiencing more severe measles symptoms and complications if your diet is deficient in vitamin A.