Measles is a highly contagious illness. If one person has it, 90 percent of the people close to that person who are not immune will become infected. The measles virus spreads through coughing, sneezing and contact with secretions from the nose, mouth and throat of an infected individual. The virus can live for up to two hours on a surface or in airspace where an infected person coughed or sneezed. If other people breathe the contaminated air or touch the infected surface then touch their eyes, noses or mouths, they can become infected. People are known to be contagious from four days before to four days after they get the rash that comes with measles.
Measles vaccine, which has been commonly used for more than 50 years, can safely and effectively prevent this disease. Measles can lead to serious complications and death, even with modern medical care. The measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine is safe and highly effective in preventing measles and its complications. Maintaining high immunization rates in the community is the cornerstone of outbreak prevention.
People should have their health care providers review their immunization records and get vaccinated against the measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases as appropriate. Measles vaccine is available through primary care physicians and Health Department clinics.
Measles symptoms begin with a fever of 101°F or higher, runny nose, redness of the eyes and cough. Two or three days after symptoms begin, tiny white spots may appear inside the mouth. In addition, three to five days after symptoms begin, a red blotchy rash appears on the face and spreads over the entire body. Measles symptoms generally appear seven to 14 days after a person becomes infected. Read more about signs and symptoms.
More Information About Measles
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Measles Web Page
- Measles Outbreaks and Cases (CDC)
Measles Fact Sheet (Virginia Department of