Signs & symptoms of measles
What you need to know about this highly contagious virus
September 2, 2021
What is measles?
Measles is a highly contagious virus that lives in the mucus of the nose and throat of an infected person. Symptoms appear 7 to 14 days after contact with the virus.
Learn the symptoms
The most common symptoms of measles include:
(may spike to more than 104°F)
Red, watery eyes
Spots in the mouth
(2-3 days after symptoms begin)
(3-5 days after symptoms begin)
Measles is highly contagious
- Measles can cause serious health complications, including ear infections, diarrhea, pneumonia, and encephalitis (an inflammation of the brain).
- About 1 in 5 people in the U.S. who get measles are hospitalized.
- As many as 1 out of every 20 children with measles get pneumonia, the most common cause of death from measles in young children.
- Approximately 1 to 3 of every 1,000 children who become infected with measles will die from respiratory and neurologic complications.
Understanding measles outbreaks
Before 1963, a decade before a vaccine became available, an estimated 3 to 4 million Americans contracted measles each year, leading to approximately 400 to 500 deaths and 48,000 hospitalizations annually.
1,275 cases were reported in 2019
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported more measles cases in 2019 than in any single year over the past 25 years.
In 2020, the number of measles cases in the U.S. dropped significantly, likely due in part to regulations put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, these same regulations led to a decrease in routine child well visits, which leads experts to believe there could be an uptick in measles cases as restrictions ease.
Measles is still common in many parts of the world, and travelers with measles continue to bring the disease to the U.S. Measles can spread rapidly.
For more information, including the latest statistics on outbreaks, speak with your doctor or visit