Measles starts with fever, runny nose, cough, red eyes, and sore throat. It's followed by a rash that spreads over the body. Measles virus is highly contagious and spreads through the air through coughing and sneezing. Measles can be prevented with the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine.
Measles is a highly contagious virus that lives in the nose and throat mucus of an infected person. The symptoms of measles generally appear about seven to 14 days after a person is infected.
Measles typically begins with
runny nose (coryza), and
red, watery eyes (conjunctivitis).
Two or three days after symptoms begin, tiny white spots (Koplik spots) may appear inside the mouth.
Three to five days after symptoms begin, a rash breaks out. It usually begins as flat red spots that appear on the face at the hairline and spread downward to the neck, trunk, arms, legs, and feet. Small raised bumps may also appear on top of the flat red spots. The spots may become joined together as they spread from the head to the rest of the body. When the rash appears, a person’s fever may spike to more than 104° Fahrenheit. After a few days, the fever subsides and the rash fades.
Measles can spread to others through coughing and sneezing. Also, measles virus can live for up to two hours in an airspace where the 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.
Measles is so contagious that if one person has it, 90% of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected. Infected people can spread measles to others from four days before through four days after the rash appears. Measles is a disease of humans; measles virus is not spread by any other animal species. Learn More
Measles can be prevented with the MMR vaccine. The vaccine protects against three diseases: measles, mumps, and rubella. CDC recommends children get two doses of MMR vaccine, starting with the first dose at 12 through 15 months of age, and the second dose at 4 through 6 years of age.
Teens and adults should also be up-to-date on their MMR vaccination.
The MMR vaccine is very safe and effective. Two doses of MMR vaccine are about 97% effective at preventing measles; one dose is about 93% effective. Children may also get MMRV vaccine, which protects against measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella (chickenpox). This vaccine is only licensed for use in children who are 12 months through 12 years of age.
CDH encourages people to check their immunization records and those of their children to ensure they are up-to-date on their MMR vaccine. If you are unsure about your vaccine status, contact your health care provider or the health department in the state(s) you may have received vaccines in. Note: You may need to make a formal immunization records request in writing.
Learn about Immunizations at CDH (birth through 18 years)
Health Alert Message for Child Care Providers and Schools (issued 01-31-2019)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Measles Webpage
Immunizations for Kids at CDH
Immunization Schedules for Idaho Children
Measles Resources for Health Care Providers