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Measles: Symptoms, treatment, vaccination

MEASLES, also called rubeola, is a viral infection that’s one of the most contagious infectious diseases in the world. The disease is marked by symptoms that are similar to a common cold, as well as a characteristic red rash. Between 2000 and 2010, the global incidence of measles decreased by 66% and the mortality caused by the disease decreased 74%, according to a report published in the journal The Lancet. Less than two decades ago, measles was almost wiped out in the United States, thanks to vaccines.
But recently, the virus has had a resurgence. Globally, the number of cases has jumped 30% due to vaccine hesitancy. More than 760 cases of measles were reported in the U.S. between Jan. 1 and May 3, 2019, according to Dr. Deepa Mukundan, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist at the University of Toledo Medical Center in Ohio. This is up from 372 cases over the entire year in 2018 and up from 120 cases over the entire year in 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Measles is caused by Measles morbilli-virus, a virus in the para myxoviridae family. According to the CDC, the measles virus settles in the nose and throat mucus of an infected person. When a person infected with the virus coughs, sneezes or exhales, the virus becomes airborne and can spread to other people. “The virus can remain in the air for significant periods of time,” Mukundan told Live Science. “One can get the measles just by being in a room where a person with measles has been, even up to 2 hours after that person has left.” Indeed, the virus is incredibly contagious — 90% of people who are not vaccinated against measles will become infected if they share space with someone who has the virus. “Another reason that it is transmitted so effectively is because the hallmark of measles, the rash, only comes several days after someone is contagious,” said Dr. Jennifer Lighter, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at New York University Langone Health. Therefore, infected individuals can spread the virus for several days before realizing they’re ill. The contagious period lasts about four days before and four days after the rash appears.
A person with measles is likely to infect between 5 and 18 unvaccinated people, according to a 2019 review published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases. Most cases of measles cause some combination of cough, runny nose, red eyes, high fever and tiny white to bluish spots in the mouth, said Dr. Aileen M. Marty, a professor of infectious diseases at Florida.