How Measles Is Like the Flu

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What's wrong with measles?. Big_Ryan/Digital Vision Vectors/Getty Images

Most people know measles consists of a red rash all over the body. But did you know it starts out just like the flu? 

Measles is not an illness we see a lot of anymore. Considered eliminated in the United States in the year 2000, it is making a comeback in recent years. Whether it's due to the increasing number of unvaccinated children, our global travel and economy or other factors, the fact is that the number of cases of measles has continued to rise.

 

If you were a child before the vaccine was introduced, you may think the measles is not a big deal. You probably had it and got over it, thinking it was just another annoying childhood illness. Unfortunately, it killed an average of 500 kids per year before the vaccine. Now it appears to be making a comeback. 

However, many people alive today don't know anything about measles. The parents of today's children have never experienced it and have no idea what it looks like or what the symptoms are - other than a rash they may have seen in pictures. Most of our doctors have never diagnosed or treated a patient with measles. 

But since it cases are on the rise, we need to familiarize ourselves with this disease once again. 

Symptoms

Early symptoms of the measles are often similar to those of the flu:

Two to three days later, tiny white spots appear inside the mouth.

 

Three to five days after symptoms start, a rash breaks out on the body. Once the rash appears, the fever may spike up as high as 104F. After a few days, both the rash and fever should fade and subside.

What To Do

If you or your child has been exposed to someone with a confirmed case of measles - especially if you are not vaccinated - contact your health care provider.

He can help you determine the best course of action and whether any treatment is necessary. 

Facts to Know

Measles is highly contagious. It is an airborne illness - meaning it is spread through the air. If an infected person is exposed to 10 unvaccinated people - 9 out of those 10 people will contract measles. 

Although measles was considered eradicated in the United States in 2000, it is still common in other parts of the world. An average of 146,000 people - mostly children - die from the measles worldwide each year.  

Measles can be serious - it can cause pneumonia, swelling of the brain (encephalitis), seizures, deafness or death. 

1 out of 4 people in the United States who contract measles will be hospitalized.

1-2 children out of every 1,000 that get measles will not survive. 

Those at highest risk for complications include:

  • Children under 5 years old
  • Adults over age 20
  • Pregnant Women
  • People with compromised immune systems

​There is no treatment for measles but it can be prevented with the vaccine.

The MMR vaccine is routinely given to children and provides protection against measles, mumps and rubella. Once both doses are administered (typically the first at 12-15 months and the second at 4-6 years), the vaccine is 97% effective. 

​Sources:

"For Healthcare Professionals". Measles (Rubeola) 24 Feb 15. US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Department of Health and Human Services. 26 Feb 15. 

"Signs and Symptoms". Measles (Rubeola) 17 Feb 15. US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Department of Health and Human Services. 25 Feb 15. 

"Complications". Measles (Rubeola) 17 Feb 15. US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Department of Health and Human Services. 25 Feb 15. 

"Top 4 Things Parents Need to Know About Measles". Measles (Rubeola) 20 Feb 15. US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Department of Health and Human Services. 25 Feb 15. 

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