Overview On Measles

Measles, a childhood illness triggered by a virus, was once prevalent but is now largely preventable through vaccination.

Also known as rubeola, measles is highly contagious and poses significant risks, especially to young children, with potential for severe outcomes, including fatalities. Although global mortality rates have declined with increased vaccine coverage, the disease still claims over 200,000 lives annually, primarily among children.

Due to widespread vaccination in the United States over the past two decades, measles has been effectively contained. Recent cases within the country have typically stemmed from individuals lacking vaccination or awareness of their vaccination status and have often been linked to exposures outside the U.S.


Measles causes a crimson, blotchy rash that normally seems first at the face and behind the ears, then spreads downward to the chest and again and in the end to the toes.


Measles signs and symptoms appear around 10 to 14 days after exposure to the virus. Signs and symptoms of measles typically include:

  • Fever
  • Dry cough
  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Inflamed eyes (conjunctivitis)

The sickness happens in stages over 2 to 3 weeks.

First stage: Infection and waiting. In the first 10 to 14 days after getting sick, the measles virus spreads in the body. There are no signs or symptoms of measles during this time.

Second stage: General signs and symptoms. Measles usually starts with a mild to moderate fever, along with a cough, a runny nose, red eyes, and a sore throat. This mild sickness might last for 2 to 3 days.

Third stage: Serious sickness and rash. The rash is made up of small red spots, some are slightly raised. The spots and bumps in tight groups make the skin look red and patchy. It starts on the face.

In the next few days, the rash spreads down the arms, chest, and back, then over the thighs, lower legs, and feet. At the same time, the fever goes up quickly, sometimes as high as 104 to 105.8 F (40 to 41 C).

Fourth stage: Getting better. The measles rash might last about seven days. It fades away first from the face and last from the thighs and feet. As other symptoms of the sickness go away, the cough and darkening or peeling of the skin where the rash was may stay for about 10 days.


When can a person spread the measles virus?


Someone with measles can pass the virus to others for around eight days. This starts four days before the rash shows up and stops when the rash has been there for four days.


Measles spreads easily because it’s highly contagious. It’s caused by a virus found in the nose and throat of someone who’s infected, whether they’re a child or an adult. When a person with measles coughs, sneezes, or talks, tiny droplets carrying the virus go into the air. Other people nearby can breathe in these droplets. These droplets can stay in the air for up to an hour.

The droplets can also land on surfaces, where they can survive for several hours. If you touch a surface with the virus on it and then touch your mouth, nose, or eyes, you can get infected.

Measles is highly contagious from about four days before the rash appears until four days after. If you haven’t had measles or been vaccinated against it, there’s a high chance, about 90%, that you’ll get infected if you’re around someone with the virus.

Risk factors

Risk elements for measles encompass:

Being unvaccinated. If you haven’t had the measles vaccine, you’re more likely to get measles.

Traveling across the world. If you travel to international locations wherein measles is greater commonplace, you are at better hazard of catching measles.

Having a nutrition, A deficiency. If you don’t have enough diet A for your food regimen, you’re much more likely to have extra-intense symptoms and headaches of measles.


Complications from measles may include:

  • Diarrhea and vomiting, which can lead to dehydration.
  • Ear infection, a common complication, often caused by bacteria.
  • Respiratory issues such as bronchitis, laryngitis, or croup, which involve inflammation of the airways.
  • Pneumonia, a lung infection that can be especially dangerous for those with weakened immune systems.
  • Encephalitis, a rare but severe complication involving inflammation of the brain. It can cause permanent brain damage and is more risky for those with weakened immune systems.
  • Pregnancy problems, including premature birth, low birth weight, and fetal death. Pregnant women need to take extra precautions to avoid measles due to these risks.

Measles is spreading in the United States, and there's also a surge in cases in Europe and Central Asia.

Measles outbreaks have intensified across Europe and Central Asia in the first quarter of 2024, with incidence rates soaring to hundreds of times higher than those in the United States.

While attention in the U.S. has been focused on increasing domestic measles cases, the situation in Europe and Central Asia has reached crisis levels. As of April 11, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported 121 cases in the U.S., nearly double the total for all of last year.

However, the U.S. situation is dwarfed by the number of cases in parts of Europe and Central Asia. For instance, England and Wales have reported around 4,200 cases of measles in 2024, which is 35 times the U.S. caseload, despite having a population more than five times smaller. This results in nearly a 200 times higher measles incidence rate than in the U.S.

In response to the surge in cases, the U.K.’s Health Security Agency declared a “national incident” in January, signaling a significant public health risk. What’s concerning is the simultaneous increase in childhood vaccine exemptions, leading to a decline in vaccination rates.

In one of the hotspots for measles outbreaks, the Birmingham region, the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccination rate was approximately 83% in December 2022, possibly lower now. To adequately protect the population, a vaccination rate of at least 95% is crucial. To underscore the seriousness of the situation, only about 50% of children have completed their full MMR series in parts of East London, according to UKSHA.