Measles is a very infectious illness caused by a virus – a viral infection caused by the rubeola virus. The virus stays in the mucus of the nose and throat of an infected child or adult. The infected person is infectious for four days before the rash appears, and continues so for about four to five days later.
The symptoms of measles infection usually begin 10 to 12 days after exposure, which is known as the incubation period. Signs and symptoms of measles typically include:
Coryza – runny nose.
Persistent dry cough.
Conjunctivitis – swollen eyelids, inflamed eyes.
Photophobia – sensitivity to light.
Fever – this may be mild to severe and can reach 105F (40.6C) for a number of days. Fever may drop, and then rise again when the rash appears.
Koplik’s spots – very small grayish-white spots with bluish-white centers in the mouth, insides of cheeks, and throat.
Aches generally all over the body. Especialy, pain in joints of the hands, wrists, and knees.
Rash – 3 to 4 days after initial symptoms a reddish-brown spotty rash appears. The rash can last for over a week. It usually starts behind the ears and spreads all over the head and neck. After a couple of days it spreads to the rest of the body, including the legs. As the little spots grow many of them will join together.
Children should be given the MMR (Mumps, Measles, Rubella) vaccine when they are between 12 and 15 months of age, and then again (a booster) before entering school when they are 4-6 years old. Babies carry their mother’s immunity for a few months after birth if their mothers are immune.
Occasionally babies require vaccination prior to they are 12 months old. This may happen if there is a dangerous outbreak in their area, or if they are going to move to an area with a serious outbreak. In such cases they could receive the vaccination from the age of 6 months, and will need a booster when they are 12 months old.