What Is Measles?

Measles is caused by an RNA virus with only one serotype. Humans are the only known host for this virus. This illness presents with the “3 C’s”: cough, Coryza (catarrhal inflammation in the nose) and conjunctivitis. This is accompanied by fever, malaise and the development of a rash. The rash is often the last symptom to appear. It starts on the head and travels downward. The most significant sign for measles is the presence of Koplik spots (whitish-grey spots) that appear on the buccal mucosa.
Measles can be transmitted by air and is considered a highly communicable disease. The virus resides in the nose and throat and is transmitted by coughing and sneezing. It can survive up to two hours on a surface and in the airspace where an infected person coughed or sneezed. About 90% of persons exposed will develop the disease.

The incubation period is 7–21 days after exposure. Rash may not be present until 14 days. A patient is considered contagious from four days before until four days after the rash appears.

Your best protection: If not already protected by having had the disease, get vaccinated.

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