Measles: Important FAQs and Prevention Tips

measles important faqs and prevention tips

Measles, a highly contagious disease, was declared eliminated in the US in 2000. However, now more than a hundred faculty, students, and staff at two LA universities have been isolated because they may have been exposed to measles. California State University, Los Angeles requires that exposed people stay at home, avoid contact with others, and notify a doctor if they develop any measles symptoms.

A Placentia woman, who attended the weekend screening of “Avengers: End Game” is the first confirmed measles case in Orange County in 2019. Now, she is under voluntary isolation at her home. In order to avoid cases like this, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends measles shots for every person over a year old, except for people who had measles in their childhood.

Measles – An Overview

Measles is a viral infection that can spread through the air and is caused by the rubeola virus. Pregnant women, patients with a weak immune system, people with vitamin A deficiency, AIDS, HIV, or leukemia, adults above 20 years old, and young children are at a higher risk for developing measles.

What Are the First Signs That Appear After You’re Exposed to Measles?

Symptoms appear within 10 days of initial infection with the virus, which may include:

  • Red eyes
  • Light sensitivity
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Greyish-white spots inside the cheeks
  • Muscle ache

Visit our urgent care center near you if you experience any of these symptoms.

How Does Measles Spread?

The measles virus lives in the throat or mucus of the nose of an infected person. The virus can live for up to two hours on an object. The infection spreads in the following ways:

  • Physical contact with an infected person
  • An infected person can spread the infection into the air by coughing or sneezing
  • Placing fingers into the mouth or rubbing the eyes or nose after touching a surface that contains particles of measles-infected mucus

How Long Does Measles Last?

The measles rash spreads over about 3 days, and it lasts for 5 to 6 days. Generally, the rash occurs after 14 days of initial exposure to the virus.

What Are the Different Stages of Measles?

Measles can be divided into four stages, which include:

  • Incubation phase – lasts for 8 to 12 days and there are no symptoms
  • Prodromal phase – begins at the onset of the first signs
  • Rash phase – begins 2 to 4 days after the onset of the first signs
  • Recovery phase – the rash begins to fade away after 4 to 5 days, marking the beginning of the recovery phase

What Health Complications Can Occur During Measles?

Many people get better after 7 to 10 days, but at times, it can lead to serious complications.

One in every 15 infected children will develop common measles complications including:

  • Fever that can cause fits
  • Croup, pneumonia, and bronchitis – infections of the lungs and airways
  • Middle ear infection that can cause earache
  • Diarrhea and vomiting that can lead to dehydration
  • Voice box inflammation
  • Eye infection

Less common measles complications include:

  • Infection of the brain or infection of the membranes surrounding the spinal cord and brain
  • Liver infection
  • Misalignment of the eyes occurs when the virus affects the muscles and nerves of the eye

Rare measles complications include:

  • A fatal brain complication can occur several days after measles. This occurs one in every 25,000 measles cases
  • Serious eye disorders that can lead to vision loss
  • Nervous system and heart problems

Pregnancy measles complications include:

  • Stillbirth or miscarriage
  • Baby having a low birth weight
  • Premature babies

What Are Some Dos and Don’ts to Follow When Affected by Measles?

If you or your child has measles, visit your doctor and let them know about the signs and complications.

Dos of Measles

  • Get plenty of rest
  • Drink plenty of water, herbal tea, and other fluids
  • Use a humidifier to recover from a sore throat and cough
  • Rest your eyes

Don’ts of Measles

  • Do not give aspirin to children or teenagers who have measles symptoms
  • Do not watch television or read if the light from the television or a reading lamp is bothering you
  • Do not come in contact with other people

Measles - Prevention and Vaccination

How Do You Prevent Measles?

Measles booster vaccinations can prevent measles infection. People who have had measles already are immune, so they do not need to get the MMR vaccination. People who are not immune should consider measles vaccination.

How to Protect Your Baby from Measles

You can protect your baby from measles in the following ways:

  • The measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella vaccine (MMRV) that is given to children can protect them from measles. Children get two doses of vaccine, one at 12 to 15 months of age and the second dose at 4 to 6 years of age.
  • Limit your baby’s exposure to crowds and anyone with colds.

Is the Measles Vaccine Safe?

The measles vaccine is safe. However, it does have some short-term side effects. People may experience fever, redness, mild rash, sore arms, or temporary pain and stiffness in the joints after vaccination. The CDC and the FDA regularly monitor the safety of these vaccines.

Pregnant women and people with a serious allergy to antibiotics, gelatin, or neomycin should not take the vaccination.

Do Adults Also Need to Get Measles Vaccination?

Adults including health care workers, college students, anyone about to travel overseas, and anyone living in a community or neighborhood with measles outbreaks and adults who are not immune should consider getting measles shots.

What Are the Chances of Getting Measles After Getting Vaccinated?

The chances of getting measles after being vaccinated are very small. Only about 3 percent of people who receive two doses of the measles booster vaccination will get measles if they are exposed to someone who is infected by the virus.

Can a Vaccinated Person Spread Measles?

There is a very little (only about three percent) chance that a fully vaccinated person will get measles if exposed to the virus, and spread it to others. According to the CDC, fully vaccinated people are also likely to get only mildly affected even if exposed to the virus. They are also less likely to spread it to others, including those who aren"t vaccinated.

Do Pregnant Women Need to Get Measles Vaccinations?

Women who are thinking about becoming pregnant and are not immune should get measles shots at least one month before getting pregnant. It is best to consult your doctor before getting the measles vaccinations.

How Effective are the Measles Vaccinations?

Measles vaccinations are effective at protecting you from the disease. However, people who want to be more fully protected from the disease should consider getting two doses of vaccination. People who receive only one dose of the measles vaccination may have a risk to develop measles as the first dose is 93% effective. The second dose of the vaccination increases your protection to 97%.

Visit your doctor as soon as you suspect that you or your child has measles or if you are exposed to someone who has measles, even if you are not sure or you do not have any symptoms yet. Taking the right precautionary measures will help you stay safe and be protected from measles.

Category: Measles Outbreak


Peter Kim, MD

Dr. Kim,  is the Medical Director of Family Care Centers, Former Chair of the Department of Family Medicine at Hoag Hospital, and a recipient of the Physicians of Excellence award from the Orange County Medical Association. He is Board Certified in Family Medicine, and has been practicing in our community for over 20 years. He is an excellent, caring, and well­qualified physician who is dedicated to providing you with superior health care. A native of Los Angeles, he graduated from UCLA and received his medical training at the LAC­USC Medical Center. After completing his residency in Family Medicine, he accepted a sports medicine fellowship at San Jose Medical Center, an affiliate of Stanford University. He enjoys working with patients and families who are training or want to get back into an active lifestyle. Review Dr. Kim on: Facebook Google+ Yelp WebMD

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