Measles is a highly contagious respiratory virus that can sometimes result in serious complications such as pneumonia and brain infection (encephalitis). It is not normally found in the United States but it can be introduced by people who have contracted the virus while traveling outside the country.
The number of U.S. measles outbreaks has increased significantly in recent years. This is due in part to decreasing vaccination rates in some U.S. communities as well as large numbers of international travelers who become infected while visiting countries where measles is more widespread.
Most people in the United States are immune to measles, either through natural exposure (infection) if they were born before 1957, or through vaccination. If you are immune to measles, it is highly unlikely you will become infected with measles if exposed.
Symptoms can occur seven (7) to 21 days after exposure to another person with measles. Measles starts with a high fever lasting several days, followed by a cough, sore throat, conjunctivitis (red eyes) and a rash. The rash usually begins on the face, along the hairline and behind the ears then moves to the rest of the body. After about five (5) days, the rash fades in the same order as it appeared.
If you think you have the measles or may have been exposed to the virus:
- Call your healthcare provider’s office; do not go inside the clinic to avoid spreading the virus.
- Tell the office staff you are concerned you may have measles.
- Have your measles vaccination status handy, if possible.
- Be prepared to answer the following questions:
- Have you been exposed to someone from a foreign country who had a fever and a rash?
- Were you exposed to a person who has been diagnosed with measles?
- Were you present at the time and location where another measles patient was identified by a public health office?
- Do you have symptoms of measles including rash, cough, fever, runny nose, red eyes?
For more information about the measles virus, how to treat it and how to prevent it, viewing the following resources: