Is Measles Still Around?

Reviewed on 1/20/2022

Measles rash on a child's back
In the United States, measles was almost eliminated, but a small number of infections may still occur each year. Measles is still common in many developing countries, especially in parts of Africa and Asia.

Measles is a viral infection that can cause a rash, fever, and cough. It is highly contagious and spreads easily from person to person. 

Do Measles Outbreaks Still Occur?

Measles is still common in many developing countries, especially in parts of Africa and Asia. More than 95% of measles deaths occur in countries with low per capita incomes and weak health infrastructures. Worldwide, more than 140,000 people died from measles in 2018. Most were children under the age of 5 years.

Even though measles was declared eliminated in the United States in 2000, nearly 1,300 cases of measles were reported in 31 states in 2019, the most since 1992. 

Measles outbreaks can occur in places where people are unvaccinated or under-vaccinated, including the U.S. Infected travelers entering or travelling through to the U.S. can bring measles.

People at risk for contracting measles include:

  • Children too young to get a measles vaccine
  • People who never had a measles vaccine
  • People who did not get a second measles vaccine shot
  • People who got a vaccine shot that did not work well
  • People who travel to countries where the measles vaccine is not common, or those who are around people from these countries
  • People who live in places where the vaccine might be easy to get, but many in that area choose not to get the vaccine
    • Certain parts of the United States have had an increase in measles cases due to vaccine refusal

What Are Symptoms of Measles?

What Do Measles Look Like? 18 Symptoms 

The initial symptoms of measles include:

  • Fever up to 104oF (40oC)
  • Feeling sick, as with a cold
  • Loss of appetite
  • Spots in the mouth that may look like grains of salt

After the early symptoms of measles, other symptoms may include:

  • Cough
  • Red, watery eyes
  • Eye sensitivity to bright light
  • Sneezing
  • Red rash that starts on the face and spreads to the body
    • Spots in the rash can form red patches 
    • People usually start to feel better about 2 days after the rash starts
    • After 3 or 4 days, the rash begins to turn brown and go away
    • Skin may peel or flake off, like after a sunburn
    • Cough may linger for 1 or 2 weeks after the rash goes away
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Chest pain
  • Breathing problems

What Is the Treatment for Measles?

There is no specific treatment for measles. Home remedies to relieve symptoms include: 

  • Rest
  • Drinking plenty of fluids
  • Pain relievers and fever-reducers for fever and aches
  • Antibiotics to treat ear or eye infections or pneumonia that can develop 
  • Vitamin A
    • A doctor may give vitamin A to a child who has measles if the child needs to be treated in the hospital, or has another health condition besides measles

How Do You Prevent Measles?

Measles can be prevented with the MMR vaccine, which protects against measles, mumps, and rubella.

Two doses of the MMR vaccine, given as a shot, are needed to protect against measles.

All children should get the first MMR vaccine when they are 12 to 15 months old and a second shot when they are 4 to 6 years old, before the child starts school. 

Older children and adults who may need the MMR vaccine, include:

  • Hospital or health care workers
  • Students who don't have written proof of two shots
  • People who travel outside the U.S. who don't have written proof of one shot
  • People who got a measles shot before 1968
    • In the past, some of the measles vaccines did not work well

 

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Reviewed on 1/20/2022
References
Image Source: iStock Images

https://www.uptodate.com/contents/measles-the-basics?search=Measles&source=search_result&selectedTitle=1~150&usage_type=default&display_rank=1

https://www.cdc.gov/globalhealth/measles/data/global-measles-outbreaks.html

https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/measles