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Measles is a highly contagious viral illness which usually infect children but it can be contracted at any age. 90% of their close contacts who are not immunized will become infected. It affects the respiratory system and causes skin rash. A person is contagious for one to two days before symptoms appear, and up to four days after the rash appear. It is spread through sneezing, coughing and contaminated items and surfaces. Measles can be serious and fatal to some children.Each year approximately 30 million to 40 million cases of measles occur worldwide resulting in more than 750 000 deaths. People who have had measles develop natural immunity.

Sign & Symptom

Symptoms start 10-12 days after contact with contagious person. Early symptoms include runny nose, coughing, stuffy nose, red eyes, tearing, muscle pain, light sensitivity and fever. Two to four days after these initial symptoms, body rash and tiny white spots appear inside the mouth (Koplik’s spot).
The rash starts on the head and spreads to other areas, progressing downward and merge together. It begins to fade in about four days in the same order that it appeared.


Most people with measles recover completely but some people may become quite ill and complications may include:-

  • Ear infection (otitis media)
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Encephalitis (inflammation of the brain)- occurrence: I in 1000 measles cases.
  • Pneumonia (lung infection)
  • Bronchitis (Inflammation of the inner wall that line the main air passageways of your lung)
  • Laryngitis (Inflammation of the voice box)
  • Diarrhea or vomiting
  • During pregnancy the disease may cause premature labour, miscarriage or babies with low birth weight.

Death is extremely rare ( one to two out of every 1000 cases), usually from pneumonia or encephalitis.


  • Acetaminophen (paracetamol) to reduce fever and body ache
  • Plenty of bed rest
  • Cool mist humidifier to sooth respiratory passages and cough
  • Antibiotics are given if the patient developed otitis media or bacterial pneumonia
  • Isolation


  • Measles vaccine usually given in combination with mumps, and rubella (MMR) at one year old and seven years old in Malaysia
  • It may also be necessary to keep non immunized people, siblings out of the infected persons house.
Last reviewed : 26 April 2012
Writer : Dr. Fuziah Paimin
Reviewer : Dr. Sri Wahyu Taher