Measles (rubeola) is a highly contagious infectious disease commonest in early childhood, but it can be contracted by anyone who does not have immunity. It is initially a respiratory disease that is caused by a virus. It is usually spread by coughing or sneezing on the part of someone with the disease or by contact with a place that was contaminated with the virus and then inhaled. The symptoms appearing about 8 to 12 days after exposure are initially cold-like: fever, cough, muscle aches and runny nose. But in addition there are bloodshot eyes and sensitivity to light (photophobia). Transient whitish spots (Koplic spots) may also be seen inside the mouth. About 4 or 5 days after the initial onset, a rash will develop, beginning at the head and then moving down, covering most of the body. It is called a maculopapular rash – essentially raised reddish spots. Measles can lead to serious complications such as pneumonia, and rarely blindness, encephalitis and even death.
Measles occurs in only 50 or so patients a year in the US, but in over 20 million worldwide, causing more than 150,000 deaths a year. There is no specific treatment for measles, but it can be prevented by vaccination, usually in the form of the MMR vaccine that protects against measles, mumps and rubella (German measles). Unfortunately, some parents do not let their children get vaccinated because of completely unfounded fears that the MMR vaccine can cause autism. This is totally untrue. The doctor promoting this theory was found to have falsified data and lost his license to practice medicine. Scientific studies of thousands of children have found no connection between this (or any) vaccine and autism. Not vaccinating children can lead to outbreaks of potentially serious diseases of childhood — measles, mumps, and German measles.