Health awareness

What you need to know about measles

July 1, 2019

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Measles symptoms in nose and throat graphic

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:

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High fever (may spike to more than 104°F)

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Runny nose icon

Runny nose

Conjunctivitis watery eyes icon

Red, watery eyes (conjunctivitis)

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Rash (3-5 days after symptoms begin)

Measles is highly contagious


The measles virus can live for up to 2 hours in an airspace where an infected person coughed or sneezed.


If one person has measles, up to 90% of at-risk people close to that person will also become infected.


Infected people can spread measles to others 4 days before through 4 days after the rash appears.


After being exposed to measles, the incubation period of 21 days can impact the daily period of 21 days can impact the daily lives of patients and their caretakers (e.g., can result in lost work time or missed school days).

  • 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


Measles was declared eliminated in the U.S. in 2000. However, measles has recently resurged across the country.


This year has seen the greatest number of measles cases reported in the U.S. since the virus was declared eliminated in 2000.

Before 1963, an estimated 3 to 4 million Americans contracted measles each year, leading to approximately 400 to 500 deaths and 48,000 hospitalizations annually.

Over 1,000 Cases Reported in 2019 To Date

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has reported more measles cases to date in 2019 than in any single year over the past 25 years.

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

Map of measles cases in usa 2019