8 Facts Everyone Should Know About the Measles

Mia Finkelston
Posted on March 19, 2015
8 Facts Everyone Should Know About the Measles
  1. Measles is a virus that is spread by respiratory droplets. Measles can be picked up in an elevator, on a bus or train — really, anywhere. The virus is stubborn and airborne transmission has been documented in closed areas (e.g., office examination room) for up to two hours after a person with measles occupied the area.
  2. The best way to protect yourself is to get vaccinated. The measles vaccine is more than 97% effective.
  3. Classic measles symptoms are a rash, runny nose and conjunctivitis (pinkeye). The rash often starts on the head or face, then spreads to the trunk and extremities.
  4. Measles is highly communicable, with greater than 90% secondary attack rates among susceptible persons. Measles may be transmitted from four days before to four days after rash onset. You can be exposed and not know it, therefore getting vaccinated is the best protection. Always avoid situations where people are not well — especially if they have a rash.
  5. Measles “parties” where people intentionally expose themselves or their children to the virus are NOT a good idea. Complications could occur if someone contracts measles.
  6. Measles lasts about 25 days. The typical incubation period is 10-14 days because of how the virus gets transmitted to distant sites in the body. It is believed that the virus replicates in respiratory epithelial cells and spreads through the bloodstream in approximately two to three days, infecting lungs, lymph tissue and GI tract. After a few more days, the virus sends a larger wave to the skin, producing the red spots commonly associated with measles. The rash, itself, lasts for five to seven days.
  7. In people who are otherwise healthy, there are few complications besides the rash itself. Those most susceptible to complications are individuals over 65 and under one year old. Common complications include ear and lung infections as the body may be more “vulnerable” to attack once already compromised by the measles virus.
  8. If you are not vaccinated and become exposed to measles, you can get an immune globulin shot that can help eliminate or lessen your reaction. However, it is still important to get immunized five months after exposure to the virus. This applies to adults and children of all ages.

If you have any questions about measles, you can always reach a board-certified doctor 24/7 at LiveHealth Online or download our app at Google Play or the App Store.

Comments and opinions from Dr. Mia Finkelston are hers alone. This is an essay and is not considered medical treatment.

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Mia Finkelston
Family Physician
20 years of experience
MCP Hahnemann University School of Medicine

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