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.
Current scientific evidence does not support the hypothesis that measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine causes autism. The question about a possible link between MMR vaccine and autism has been extensively reviewed by independent groups of experts in the U.S. including the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine. These reviews have concluded that the available epidemiologic evidence does not support a causal link between MMR vaccine and autism.
The MMR-autism theory had its origins in research by Andrew Wakefield and colleagues in England. Those colleagues have retracted their article about the theory. Studies that suggest a cause-and-effect relationship between MMR vaccine and autism have received a lot of attention by the media. However, these studies have significant weaknesses and are far outweighed by many population studies that have consistently failed to show a causal relationship between MMR vaccine and autism. For a summary of the issues surrounding this topic, please read "Vaccines and Autism," by Paul A. Offit, MD, Director, Vaccine Education Center, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. This article can be accessed online at: www.immunize.org/catg.d/p2065.htm. For more information and links to related journal articles, visit IAC's "Autism" page at: www.immunize.org/safety/autism.htm