Measles is a highly contagious viral illness. More than 90% of susceptible persons will become infected after exposure. Measles is spread through respiratory droplets, especially when a person with measles coughs or sneezes. Measles can be spread from 4 days before to 4 days after the rash occurs.
Symptoms of measles begin about 10 to 12 days after exposure. Initial symptoms (prodrome) last about 2 to 4 days and include fever, which increases in a stepwise fashion, followed by cough, runny nose, and conjunctivitis (eye inflammation). Koplick spots (rash on the mucous membranes of the mouth) may also occur either before or after the typical measles rash. The measles rash is maculopapular (reddish with small pumps). It begins at the hairline and then gradually spreads downward and outward.
Even after exposure, measles can be prevented if the person is given measles vaccine (MMR vaccine) within 72 hours of the exposure. In addition, immune globulin may prevent or decrease the severity of measles if given within 6 days of exposure. However, once symptoms are present the only treatment is supportive care to relieve symptoms and treat complications.
Although in the past measles, mumps and rubella were available
as individual (single antigen) vaccines, the manufacturer is no longer
making these individual vaccines. Instead measles, mumps, and rubella
vaccines are given as combined MMR vaccine or as MMRV vaccine (combined
MMR vaccine and varicella vaccine).
Product: M-M-R II® (Measles, Mumps, and Rubella)
Manufacturer: Merck & Co
Year licensed: 1971
Product: ProQuad® (Measles, Mumps, Rubella, and Varicella)
Manufacturer: Merck & Co
Year licensed: 2005
* MMR vaccine contains egg protein,
neomycin, and gelatin (see package insert). However, allergy to eggs in
not a contraindication or precaution to MMR vaccine.
*When MMR antigens are given in combination with other antigens (e.g., variciella)
in one vaccine, the other antigens in the vaccine may cause other side
effects. For more information about these possible side effects, go to
the varicella pages on the Vaccines section of this website.
Fever is the most common side effect, occurring in 5%-15% of vaccine recipients. About 5% of people develop a mild rash. When they occur, fever and rash appear 7-10 days after vaccination. About 25% of adult women receiving MMR vaccine develop temporary joint pain, although this symptom is related to the rubella component of the combined vaccine. Joint pain only occurs in women who are susceptible to rubella at the time of vaccination.
More severe reactions, including allergic reactions, are rare. About one person per million develops inflammation of the brain due to the measles component of the MMR vaccine.