What is measles and how do I get it?
Measles (Rubeola) is a serious illness caused by a virus. You can get measles just by being in the same room with someone who is infected with measles. It can spread very easily from one person to another through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes, or by contacting nose or throat secretions from someone who is sick. The measles virus can stay in the air for up to two hours after a person with measles has been in the area.
What are the symptoms of measles?
Measles symptoms usually appear seven to 14 days after a person is infected. Measles typically begins with:
- High fever
- Runny nose (coryza)
- Red, watery eyes (conjunctivitis)
Two or three days after symptoms begin, small white spots, called Koplik spots, may also appear on the gums and inside of the cheeks.
Three to five days after symptoms begin, a red blotchy rash begins to appear on the face and spreads over the entire body.
If you have measles symptoms, call your healthcare provider. Do not arrive at their office without telling your healthcare provider’s staff of your symptoms.
Who is at risk for getting measles?
People of any age can get measles. In the U.S., most cases are in unvaccinated infants, children, and teens. Adults at increased risk include college students, international travelers, and healthcare workers.
Thanks to the measles vaccine, the disease has nearly disappeared in the U.S. But, measles is common in many parts of the world. Recent outbreaks in the U.S. have been linked to unvaccinated travelers bringing the disease from another country and giving it to others who are not immune to the disease.
How can I prevent measles?
The measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine is the best way to prevent measles. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that children get one dose of MMR between 12 and 15 months, and a second dose between four and six years of age. Teenagers and adults who have not been vaccinated with two doses, or who have not had measles, should also get the MMR.
How can I get the MMR vaccine?
- Contact your healthcare provider.
- Come to one of Arlington County Public Health Division’s weekly walk-in clinics. Visit health.arlingtonva.us/public-health/health-clinics-services/immunization-clinic/ for more information about times, locations, and costs.
Can measles be treated?
There is no specific treatment for the measles, but your healthcare provider may treat the symptoms. This may include fluids, medications to control fever or pain, antibiotics to treat secondary infections from bacteria, and vitamin A supplements.
How can I get more information about measles?
General information on measles from the CDC, including information on immunization and international travel, is available at: www.cdc.gov/measles.