Symptoms and Signs of Measles (Rubeola)

Doctor's Notes on Measles (Rubeola)

Measles is a disease that usually causes fever and a rash in children and sometimes, in adults. There are two types of measles; the most common one is termed measles, rubeola, red measles or hard measles. The early phase has symptoms of fever, lethargy, cough, conjunctivitis, runny nose and loss of appetite. In about 2 to 4 days a rash starts on the face spreads to the trunk in the into the arms and legs. The rash consists of small red bumps or spots that may blend together. This rash may peel off as the patient recovers. Koplik spots, gray spots, may appear inside the mouth. This disease makes patients more vulnerable to pneumonia and occasionally, encephalitis.

The second less common type of measles is termed Rubella, German measles or the 3-day measles. It has the same signs and symptoms as the more common type but the symptoms are much milder and last a shorter time. About 25 to 50% of people with rubella infection have no symptoms or signs. Swollen lymph nodes may occur in the back of the neck. Unfortunately, pregnant women who get the disease to her unborn child producing birth defects and possible miscarriage or stillbirth.

Both types of measles are caused by viruses. However, each type is caused by a different viral type. The most common form of measles is caused by the Rubeola virus while the less common form of measles is caused by the Rubella virus. Vaccination with the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine protects against both types of measles and in the US, is required for entry into school.

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 3/11/2019


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.