Measles Advisory - 2015

Multistate Measles Outbreak Advisory from the CDC

most common symptoms of measles infection, measles, symptoms, infection
On Friday, Jan 23, 2015, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Health Alert Network issued an advisory regarding the multistate measles outbreak that began in California in December. The CDC reminds us measles is a highly contagious, acute viral illness that can cause severe health complications, including pneumonia, encephalitis and death. It is transmitted by contact with an infected person through coughing and sneezing. Infected people are contagious from four days before their rash starts through four days afterward. After an infected person leaves a location, the virus remains viable for up to two hours on surfaces and in the air.

Measles was declared eliminated (i.e., interruption of year-round endemic transmission) in the U.S. in 2000, because of high population immunity achieved by high, two-dose measles vaccine coverage and a highly effective measles vaccine. However, measles is still endemic in many parts of the world, and outbreaks can occur in the U.S. when unvaccinated groups are exposed to imported measles virus. The current multistate outbreak underscores the ongoing risk of importation of measles, the need for high measles vaccine coverage, and the importance of a prompt and appropriate public health response to measles cases and outbreaks.

Read the full Health Alert from the CDC, including recommendations for health care providers, here.

Measles is a highly infectious illness caused by a virus. The virus lives in the mucus of the nose and throat of people with this infection. Physical contact, coughing and sneezing can spread the infection. In addition, infected droplets of mucus can remain active and can be passed on by touching (they are contagious) for around two hours. This means that the virus can live outside the body - for example, on surfaces and door handles.

Once you are infected with the virus, the virus multiples in the back of your throat and in your lungs. It then spreads throughout your body. The following are the most common symptoms of measles:

  • A high temperature (fever), sore eyes (conjunctivitis) and a runny nose usually occur first.
  • Small white spots usually develop inside the mouth a day or so later. These can persist for several days.
  • A harsh, dry cough is usual.
  • Going off food, tiredness and aches and pains are usual.
  • Diarrhea and/or being sick (vomiting) is common.
  • A red blotchy rash normally develops about three to four days after the first symptoms. It usually starts on the head and neck and spreads down the body. It takes 2-3 days to cover most of the body. The rash often turns a brownish color and gradually fades over a few days.
  • Children are usually quite unwell and miserable for three to five days. After this, the fever tends to ease and then the rash fades. The other symptoms gradually ease and go.

Most children are better within seven to 10 days. An irritating cough may persist for several days after other symptoms have gone. The immune system makes antibodies during the infection. These fight off the virus and then provide lifelong immunity. It is rare to have more than one bout of measles.

Some people mistake rashes caused by other viruses for measles. Measles is not just a mild red rash that soon goes. The measles virus causes an unpleasant and sometimes serious illness. The rash is just one part of this illness.

Your doctor will usually be able to diagnose measles from the combination of your symptoms, especially the characteristic rash and the small spots inside your mouth. However, a simple blood or saliva test is usually done to confirm the diagnosis.

MEASLES, Mumps, Rubella, Chickenpox

Complications are more likely in children with a poor immune system (such as those with leukemia or HIV), those who are malnourished, children aged under 5 years and adults. Many malnourished children in the world die when they get measles, usually from a secondary lung infection (pneumonia). There are still the occasional reports of children in the UK who die from complications of measles. These children have usually not been immunized.

Spring Break Travel Plans? Don’t bring measles home.

There is no confirmed case of measles in Gunnison County. There is one case in Colorado associated with travel to Disneyland in California, as well as in five other states and Mexico, with a total of 51 confirmed cases as of Jan 21, 2015. Fifteen percent of patients required hospitalization. The case totals continue to rise. The best prevention is MMR vaccination. Be sure you are up to date on your vaccines, especially MMR.

If traveling, such as for Spring Break, international travelers should be sure they have adequate measles protection, such as two documented MMR vaccine doses. Infants 6 through 11 months should receive one dose of MMR before departure. To confirm vaccine status, check with your healthcare provider, Public Health at 970.641.0209, or Student Affairs at 970.943.2011.

For more traveler information, please visit the CDC Travelers' Health page about Measles


For more information: