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Measles, also called rubeola or red measles, is a contagious viral illness. It usually causes a red, non-itchy rash over most of the body.
Other symptoms are similar to those caused by the common cold, such as high fever, sneezing, sore throat, coughing, swollen glands, red and irritated eyes, tiredness, and loss of appetite. Although measles is much less common today, it still infects people who have not received the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine or the measles, mumps, rubella, and chickenpox (varicella) vaccine (MMRV). For example, teenagers or college students who have not been immunized could get measles while they are in their school settings.
If a pregnant woman gets measles, she has a greater chance of miscarrying her baby, delivering her baby prematurely, or delivering a stillborn baby. But measles infection does not cause birth defects.
Treatment for measles includes resting, drinking plenty of fluids, and taking acetaminophen or other nonprescription drugs to relieve symptoms. Most people who have measles recover without complications. But babies, older adults, and people who have impaired immune systems are at greater risk for complications, such as ear infections, strep throat, pneumonia, or inflammation of the brain (encephalitis).
Measles used to be common in children, but the measles vaccine has drastically reduced the number of cases that occur each year.
Last Revised: March 8, 2013
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: John Pope, MD - Pediatrics & Christine Hahn, MD - Epidemiology
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