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.
Most people receive measles vaccine as part of a combination vaccine known as M-M-R II® which also protects against two other viruses – mumps and rubella. Another option is a vaccine called Proquad® which provides protection against measles, mumps, rubella and varicella (chicken pox) in one shot. A vaccine protective against measles only is also available and called Attenuvax®. All three of these vaccines are produced by Merck and Co, Whitehouse Station, NJ.
Measles vaccines are live, attenuated (weakened) virus vaccines. This means that after injection, the virus grows, and causes a harmless infection in the person immunized. The body’s immune system fights the infection caused by the weakened virus, which results in the person becoming immune to measles infection.