Measles (Rubeola)

By Monica Santiago

History of Measles

In 1757 measles were caused by an infectious agent present in the blood of patients. Then in 1954 the virus that caused measles was isolated in Boston, Massachusetts, by John F. Enders and Thomas C. Peebles. But before measles vaccine, nearly all children got measles by the time they were 15 years of age. Each year in the United States about 450-500 people died because of measles, 48,000 were hospitalized, 7,000 had seizures, and about 1,000 suffered permanent brain damage or deafness. Now only about 50 cases a year are reported in the United States, and most of these originate outside the country.

Infectious or Non-Infectious

Measles are infectious. They spread through the air by breathing, coughing, or sneezing. It is so contagious that any child who is exposed to it and is not immune will probably get the disease. Measles is highly contagious and can be spread to others. The virus lives in the mucus in the nose and throat of the infected person.


Measles is a Pathogen. Measles is a respiratory disease caused by a virus. Measles virus normally grow in the cell that line the back of the throat and lungs.

Signs and Symptoms

A typical case of measles begins with mild to moderate fever, cough, runny nose, red eyes, and sore throat. Two or three days after symptoms begin, tiny white spots may appear inside the mouth. Three to five days after the start of symptoms, a red or reddish-brown rash appears, The rash usually begins on a person's face at the hairline and spreads downward to the neck, trunk, arms, legs, and feet. When the rash appears, a person's fever may spike to more than 104 degrees Fahrenheit. After a few days, the fever subsides and the rash fades.

What Body Systems are Affected?

About one child in every 1,000 who gets measles gets encephalitis. Encephalitis is an inflammation of the brain that can lead to convulsion, and can leave the child deaf or mentally challenged. Measles also can make a pregnant woman have a miscarriage, give birth prematurely, or have a low-birth weight baby. In developing countries, measles has been known to kill as one out of four people. It is the leading cause of blindness among African children. Measles kills almost 1 million children in the world each year.

Treatment and Prevention

Measles can be prevented by the combination MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine.