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The Measles: Why Is It A Big Deal?

The measles, also known as Rubeola, is a highly contagious respiratory illness that is caused by the Morbillivirus of the Paramyxoviridae family. It is so contagious that 90% of people exposed to the virus, that are not immune, will become infected. Measles is one of the leading cause of death in young children. In 2013, there were 145,700 deaths globally due to measles.

It is spread when people that are sick with the measles sneeze, cough, or talk. Respiratory droplets can land in the mouths or noses of nearby people causing them to be infected. The virus particles that land on surfaces can remain active and contagious for up to 2 hours.

Initial symptoms of the measles are red and watery eyes, cough, fever, runny nose, and sore throat. Then a rash develops and spreads over the entire body. Symptoms usually develop 7 to 14 days after a person is infected. A person sick with the measles is contagious 4 days before the rash starts and 4 days after having the rash.

Young unvaccinated children under 5 years of age are the highest at risk population for developing measles. Pregnant women who are unvaccinated and any non-immune person (either unvaccinated or a vaccinated person that did not develop immunity) can also become infected.

Measles complications can be serious and oftentimes fatal. These complications occur in 30% of cases and include diarrhea, blindness, pneumonia, and inflammation or irritation of the brain. One child out of every 1,000 children with the measles will develop inflammation of the brain. This brain inflammation, also called encephalitis, can cause seizures, deafness, mental retardation, and death.

The best and most effective way to prevent the measles is to get vaccinated. One dose of the measles vaccine is about 93% effective at preventing measles. Two doses is about 97% effective.

Learn more about the measles at: www.cdc.gov/measles