• Measles, also known as rubeola, is a common childhood illness, although adults are also susceptible. The virus that causes the disorder is transmitted by inhalation of infecting droplets such as from a sneeze. Measles are most contagious before the rash appears, making it difficult to avoid the disease; until the rash disappears you can still pass it on to others. Once you have had measles, you are permanently immune and will not contract the disease again.

    Signs and Symptoms

    • Fever
    • Cough, sneezing, swollen eyelids
    • Sore throat
    • Tiny white spots on the lining of the cheek
    • Rash

    The Diagnosis

    Measles begins as a fever, often as high as 104 degrees F to 105 degrees F, with a persistent cough, sneezing, and sore throat. After about 4 days, a red blotchy rash appears on the face and behind the ears. The rash spreads to the chest and back and, finally, to the arms and legs. By the time it reaches the arms and legs, it has begun to fade from the face.

    The symptoms usually appear 10 to 14 days after exposure to the virus. The diagnosis is usually made on the basis of the characteristic rash and the small white spots on the inside lining of the cheek.

    How Serious Is Measles?

    Normally, the infection lasts for 10 days to 2 weeks, and the person recovers completely. In a small number of cases, pneumonia may develop early in the course of the illness, or complications may arise immediately after the appearance of the rash. Encephalitis, which causes vomiting, convulsions, coma, and brain disorders, or a bacterial infection may develop.