Measles (Rubeola)

What is Measles?

Measles is a highly contagious viral disease spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

What are the symptoms?

The initial symptoms of measles include fever, cough, and runny nose. These symptoms are followed in about 2-4 days by a rash. The rash usually lasts 5-6 days. Severe complications can occur with measles, including pneumonia, encephalitis, and even death. Complications caused by the virus can occur in as many as 3 out of 10 cases. Complications are most often seen in children under 5 years of age, adults over the age of 20, pregnant women, and individuals with a weakened immune system. 

Most people recover completely on their own. For uncomplicated cases, bed rest, drinking plenty of fluids and over-the-counter medications to reduce the fever and headache may help make infected individuals more comfortable.  For those who require hospitalization, supportive care is the only treatment.   

How do people catch this disease?

The disease is very contagious and is spread to as many as 9 out of 10 close contacts who have not had the disease earlier or have not been vaccinated. After an infected person leaves a location, the measles virus remains alive for up to two hours on surfaces and in the air.

Who is vulnerable for getting the measles?

Anyone who has either not had the measles or who has not been adequately vaccinated against measles can easily get the disease if exposed.  Of the people who become infected, those at highest risk of severe illness and complications are children less than 5 years of age, pregnant women, individuals with a weakened immune system, and adults older than 20.​

What can be done to stop the spread of this disease?

The measles vaccine (included in the MMR vaccine) is the best way to protect yourself and others against the measles.  About 93% of people vaccinated with one dose have permanent protection and about 97% get protection after two doses of measles vaccine. The vaccine is recommended for all infants at 12 months of age. A second dose is recommended between 4 to 6 years of age.  It is also a requirement to attend day care or school in South Carolina.

Measles Interview with Linda J. Bell, MD

Measles Interview with Linda J. Bell, MD

Understanding South Carolina's Vaccination Rates Among School Children

We still have vulnerable populations in South Carolina and nationally. CDC reports that in 2018:  

  • The majority of people who got measles were unvaccinated.  
  • Measles is still common in many parts of the world, including some countries in Europe, Asia, the Pacific and Africa.  
  • Travelers with measles continue to bring measles into the US.
  • Measles can spread easily when it reaches a community where groups of people are unvaccinated.

Based on the 2017 CDC NIS (National Immunization Survey) Child data, coverage rates in the 19 - 35 month old survey indicate that 88.0% of children 19-35 months old in South Carolina have had at least one dose of MMR vaccine.  

In South Carolina, two doses of MMR vaccine are required for school entry for kindergarten through 12th grade. For the 2017-18 school year, 96.3% of kindergarten students had two doses of MMR vaccine.