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A respiratory disease caused by a virus
The virus normally grows in the cells that line the back of the throat and
in the cells that line the lungs.
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Rash, high fever, cough, runny nose, and red, watery eyes (lasts about a week)
Symptoms begin to appear about 10 to 12 days after exposure to the virus.
The infected person first experiences a fever lasting about 2 to 4 days that
can peak as high as 103 degrees F to 105 degrees F. This is followed by the
onset of cough, runny nose, and/or conjunctivitis (pink eye). The rash usually
appears about 14 days after exposure and lasts 5 to 6 days. It begins at the
hairline, then involves the face and upper neck. Over the next 3 days, the
rash gradually proceeds downward and outward, reaching the hands and feet.
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Diarrhea, ear infections,
pneumonia, encephalitis, seizures, and death
Approximately 20% of reported measles cases experience
one or more complications. These complications are more
common among children under 5 years of age and adults over
20 years old.
Measles causes ear infections in nearly one out of every
10 children who get it. As many as one out of 20 children
with measles gets pneumonia, and about one child in every
1,000 who get measles will develop encephalitis. (This
is an inflammation of the brain that can lead to convulsions,
and can leave your child deaf or mentally retarded.) For
every 1,000 children who get measles, one or two will die
from it. Measles can also make a pregnant woman have a
miscarriage, give birth prematurely, or have a low-birth-weight
In developing countries, where malnutrition and vitamin
A deficiency are prevalent, measles has been known to kill
as many as one out of four people. It is the leading cause
of blindness among African children. Measles kills almost
1 million children in the world each year.
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Spread by coughing and sneezing (highly contagious)
The disease is highly contagious, and can be transmitted
from 4 days prior to the onset of the rash to 4 days after
the onset. If one person has it, 90% of their susceptible
close contacts will also become infected with the measles
The virus resides in the mucus in the nose and throat
of the infected person. When that person sneezes or coughs,
droplets spray into the air. The infected mucus can land
in other peoplefs noses or throats when they breathe or
put their fingers in their mouth or nose after handling
an infected surface. The virus remains active and contagious
on infected surfaces for up to 2 hours. Measles spreads
so easily that anyone who is not immunized will probably
get it, eventually.
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Measles vaccine (contained in MMR, MR and measles vaccines)
can prevent this disease.
The MMR vaccine is a live, attenuated (weakened), combination
vaccine that protects against the measles, mumps, and rubella
viruses. It was first licensed in the combined form in
1971 and contains the safest and most effective forms of
It is made by taking the measles virus from the throat
of an infected person and adapting it to grow in chick
embryo cells in a laboratory. As the virus becomes better
able to grow in the chick embryo cells, it becomes less
able to grow in a childfs skin or lungs. When this vaccine
virus is given to a child it replicates only a little before
it is eliminated from the body. This replication causes
the body to develop an immunity that, in 95% of children,
lasts for a lifetime.
A second dose of the vaccine is recommended to protect
those 5% who did not develop immunity in the first dose
and to give "booster" effect to those who did develop an
You do NOT need the measles, mumps, rubella
vaccine (MMR) if:
- You had blood tests that show you are immune to measles, mumps, and rubella.
- You are a man born before 1957.
- You are a woman born before 1957 who is sure she is
not having more children, has already had rubella vaccine,
or has had a positive rubella test.
- You already had two doses of MMR or one dose of MMR
plus a second dose of measles vaccine.
- You already had one dose of MMR and are not at high
risk of measles exposure.
You SHOULD get the measles vaccine if you are not among
the categories listed above, and
- You are a college student, trade school student, or other student beyond
- You work in a hospital or other medical facility.
- You travel internationally, or are a passenger on a
- You are a woman of childbearing age.