What Is Measles – Discuss The Risk Factors, Symptoms, Causes, Test, and Treatment

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What is measles?

child with measles

Measles is a contagious illness caused by a virus and is also known as rubeola. The viral infection causes respiratory sickness, which can be characterised by fever, cough, coryza, malaise and a macular rash.

According to CDC, the rash usually occurs after 14 days of the infection, and it spreads from the head to the lower extremities.

Additionally, the affected person can become contagious from 4 days after the rash appears and before four days of the rash appearing on an affected person. However, the appearance of rash will be absent in people with compromised immunity.

The measles infection is caused by a single-stranded RNA virus with a type 1 serotype. It is categorised under the genus Morbillivirus in the Paramyxoviridae family. The only natural host of the measles virus is humans.

If we date back in history, the number of people affected with measles was 549,000, and the deaths reported were 495, according to CDC.

Measles is usually common among children, and it spreads easily. In some cases, they can cause significant effects and even be fatal.

Another report by CDC states that nearly 200000 people are killed yearly due to the virus, and most of them are children. Additionally, it states that measles spreads within the community where people are not vaccinated.

What is the difference between measles and German measles?

Measles or rubeola and German measles (rubella) are similar and have symptoms like rash, fever and sore throat. The virus that causes measles is rubeola, and German measles is caused by the virus rubella.

German measles can be significant in pregnant women and cause significant conditions like miscarriage and birth defects in the baby. However, both viral infections can be prevented with proper vaccination.

Causes of measles

The measles infection is caused by a virus called Morbillivirus. The virus is an enveloped, single-stranded, non-segmented, negative-sense RNA virus.  

The genome of the virus encodes six structural proteins and two non-structural proteins, V and C. The structural proteins are nucleoprotein, large protein, phosphoprotein, matrix, fusion and haemagglutinin (HA). The haemagglutinin protein is responsible for virus attachment to the host cell.

According to NCBI, measles infection is not reported in animals and is highly contagious in humans.  

Measles can be transmitted from one person to another through an infected person’s respiratory droplet, small particles and aerosols and close contact. The incubation period of measles is reported to be 10-14 days. However, longer days are also reported.  

There is research that proves that there is a shift from measles infecting children to adolescents and older children.

According to NCBI, infants born to mothers with acquired immunity are protected from measles due to passive antibody transfer. However, these antibodies can become wane, and the children become susceptible.  

Infectiousness of measles is maximal in the four days before and four days after the rash development. However, peak levels coincide with symptoms like cough, conjunctivitis and coryza.

Symptoms of measles

The onset of symptoms for people affected with measles appears around 10-14 days after getting exposed to the virus. Some of the common symptoms of the virus are discussed below. However, the symptoms can change from one person to another.


When a person has a fever, the temperature can shoot up to 105 Fahrenheit. According to NCBI, symptoms like fever and rash can be an immune response of the body to the infection, which will help to clear the virus. The fever can last up to 10 days.

Dry cough 

When a person is affected with measles, the virus can infect the lungs, which leads to a dry cough.

Dry cough can transmit the virus in healthy people and make way for the virus to spread easily.

Runny nose

A runny nose can be caused in people when the virus is found in the nose and throat region. As days pass by, the virus tends to infect the lungs. However, if the proper medication is given, it can be handled at an earlier stage.

Sore throat

The measles infection grows and develops in the lining of the throat, which can lead to a sore throat. The initial symptoms of measles can be a sore throat as the virus tends to invade the immune system.

Tiny white spots

White spots or Koplik spots can be seen near the buccal mucosa and are considered to be a symptom of measles in the pre-eruptive stage. However, not everyone will get such spots.

Skin rash

When a person is affected with measles, it can cause a red blotchy rash. These rashes can be seen near the face, behind the ears and on the feet. When the virus directly infects the epidermal, a person can develop such rashes.


Conjunctivitis is an inflammation or infection in the transparent membrane of the eye. The blood vessels in conjunctivitis become inflamed when measles is caused and will be prominently visible.

This leads to the pink or red colour of the eyes. According to research, most people infected with the virus will have conjunctivitis.

Risk factors of measles

A person can become more prone to such infections due to the following reasons.


People who are unvaccinated are more prone to infection. According to WHO, unvaccinated young children and pregnant women are at a higher rate of measles infections.

International travels

When you travel to other countries often, there is the possibility of catching such infections, especially when you travel to countries that are endemic to the infection, the risk rate increases.  

Vitamin A deficiency

Vitamin A deficiency can also cause significant complications and increase the risk of measles. According to NCBI, measles infection increases the risk and mortality when children have vitamin A deficiency.

Other complications

The major complications caused by pneumonia are discussed below.


Measles infections start to invade through the nose and then infect your lungs. The infection in the lungs can lead to pneumonia, and people with weakened immunity can develop a severe type of pneumonia which can lead to death.

According to CDC, one out of every twenty children affected with measles develops pneumonia. In severe cases, it can lead to death.


The virus that causes measles can irritate the airways and lead to bronchitis. Measles can also lead to inflammation of the voice box, and the condition is called laryngitis.

According to CDC, 1-3 children out of every 1000 children affected with measles die from respiratory and neurological problems.

Ear infection

The common complication of measles is an ear infection. According to research, 1 in 14 people affected with measles gets affected with an ear infection. If left untreated, the ear infection can lead to permanent ear damage.

Diarrhoea and vomiting

Diarrhoea and vomiting can also be major complications of measles. These complications can lead to severe dehydration.


Encephalitis is the inflammation of the brain. This can be caused due to irritation caused by the virus. Encephalitis can cause significant effects in people with weakened immunity. In some cases, encephalitis can cause permanent brain damage.

Pregnancy problems

According to research, a measles infection during the pregnancy period can cause miscarriage and further lead to labour complications. Additionally, it states that the child will have certain defects.

Diagnosis of measles

The initial diagnosis of measles will start with the doctor questioning a person’s symptoms. If the symptoms match with the symptoms of measles infection, the doctor will suggest the following tests and other diagnoses.

  • Blood tests,
  • Secretions from the nose and throat and
  • Urine.

Blood tests

IgM antibody test

antibody test

The immunoglobulin M (IgM) antibodies are proteins that circulate throughout the body. When a person is affected with measles, there will be the presence of IgM in the blood. This will be tested by collecting the blood sample of the infected person.

Swab test

A swab test will be done by collecting a sample from the secretions of the nose and throat. This will be analysed with the help of PCR.

Treatment for measles

Currently, there is no cure for measles. The patient must survive the viral symptoms for 14 days. However, there are certain medications to mitigate the severity of the symptoms.

According to CDC, there is no specific antiviral therapy for measles and hospitalisation is required to treat the viral infection and other complications like a bacterial infection.

Children should be administered vitamin A supplements to treat measles. The dosage of vitamin A will differ depending on their age.

Prevention for measles

The measles infection can be treated with proper vaccination. The vaccination will be given in a combination form measles-mumps-rubella (MMR).  

According to CDC, the vaccine is about 97% effective against the infection. However, people who get the infection after vaccination will have mild symptoms when compared to those unvaccinated.

Home remedies for measles

A person who has been infected with measles infection will require medical assistance. However, there are certain things that should be done at home.  

Drink plenty of fluids

Consuming fluids can help with the infection. This will also help with dehydration.  

Rest your eyes

Rest is needed for a full recovery. So, get adequate rest to recover from the infection. A person will have a high fever, and it will take some time to recover.

When to see a doctor?

Consult your doctor if you have symptoms like  

  • Fever,
  • Dry cough,
  • Sore throat and
  • Runny nose.

The symptoms of measles resemble the normal cold. So, if you have symptoms for more than three days, consult your doctor.


Measles is a viral infection, and it can spread easily from one person to another. So, the infected person must be isolated immediately.

Children are prone to infection, so personal hygiene should be taught by the parents. A healthy diet can help recover people infected with the virus.


What is the main cause of measles?

The infection is caused by a single-stranded RNA virus called Morbillivirus. It can easily spread from the infected person to others.

What are the five symptoms of measles?

The common symptoms of measles are
1· Fever,
2· Sore throat,
3· Runny nose,
4· Inflamed eyes and  
5· White spots on the skin

What is the best treatment for measles?

There is no specific treatment for measles. However, there are antibiotics and vitamin A supplements available to reduce the severity of the symptoms.

Is measles a severe disease?

 Yes, measles is a severe disease.


The Information including but not limited to text, graphics, images and other material contained on this blog are intended for education and awareness only. No material on this blog is intended to be a substitute for professional medical help including diagnosis or treatment. It is always advisable to consult medical professional before relying on the content. Neither the Author nor Star Health and Allied Insurance Co. Ltd accepts any responsibility for any potential risk to any visitor/reader.

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