Diseases & Conditions


MeaslesCausesMedicationsPreventionRisk FactorsSymptomsTreatmentTypes

What is Measles?

Measles, otherwise known as Morbilli or Rubeola signifies an infected respiratory system caused specifically by the virus paramyxovirus belonging to the Morbillivirus genus.

Causes of measles

Both the rubella as well as the rubeola viruses usually enters the body through one’s respiratory route. This means that both viruses tend to be contagious through sneezing as well as coughing. In fact, there are very few viruses that are as contagious as rubeola. Hence this virus can spread quickly in a population that is susceptible to rubeola. One who is infected retains the virus within one’s respiratory tract before one gets sick so that it might spread measles without being in any way conscious of it.

Medication for measles

Symptomatic drugs like paracetamol or ibuprofen can be taken to bring down pain and fever.

Prevention of measles

The only way to prevent measles is by immunization in the form of anti-measles vaccination.

Risk factors of measles

The complication of German measles or congenital rubella occurs if a pregnant woman who is infected passes the rubella virus to her child who is yet to be born. Such children can have heart defects, cataracts, learning disabilities as well as hearing impairment. The infection can even bring about miscarriage or even still birth. Other potential complications include ear infections, inflammation of the brain and pneumonia. Pneumonia resulting from measles is so critical in infants that most infant deaths are caused by this condition.

Symptoms of measles

Symptoms of red measles

Symptoms of rubeola infection are apparent only about two weeks after one gets infected. This period is termed as the incubation period. The virus keeps multiplying through this period and the symptoms become clear in two stages. The early state produces the following symptoms

  • Fever
  • Feeling very weak
  • Red eyes or conjunctivitis
  • Cough
  • Running nose
  • Lack of appetite

Appearance of rashes as a result of red measles occurs 2 - 4 days later.

  • Usually the rash appear on one’s face and spreads along the trunk and into the limbs.
  • Initially the rash appear as tiny red bumps which soon blend into one another as more rash appear on the body till it seems uniformly red from a little distance away.
  • Measles patients can develop tiny gray spots on the inner part of the cheek termed ‘Koplik spots’.
  • The rash is not at all itchy. However, as the rash disappears, the skin can shed as if it is getting peeled off.
  • Red measles is especially severe in those whose immune systems are weakened including patients who have HIV or are malnourished.

Symptoms of German measles

The symptoms of German measles are milder than those of red measles. The incubation period between the virus infection and before the appearance of the rash is about 2 weeks. The symptoms of rubella infection are…

  • Symptoms like general debility, headache, low-grade fever or red eyes appear some days before the appearance of the rash. However, these symptoms are apparent more in adults.
  • Swollen and tender lymph nodes can develop down the back of one’s neck
  • The color of the rash tends to be pink to light red. Beginning as separate spots, the rash might blend together in the course of time. Usually, the rash begins on one’s face and tends to move down and reach the trunk.
  • The rash is not usually itchy, but the skin can shed once it start to disappear.
  • Symptoms might be very mild so that they remain unnoticed particularly in children. They resolve themselves soon enough, although the enlarged lymph nodes remain for a few more weeks

Treatment for measles

No specific treatment is indicated for measles. With supportive treatment as well as rest uncomplicated measles can be cured. Medical advice should be sought if the patient develops complications.

Types of measles

There are two types of measles. They are…

  • Red measles, also called ‘hard measles’ or just plain ‘measles’ are caused by the virus rubeola. Most people recover from red measles without encountering any problems.
  • German measles, otherwise known as ‘three day measles’ is caused by the virus rubella. German measles is a milder form of red measles.