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Measles is an infection caused by the measles virus. It spreads through coughing, sneezing, and contact with contaminated surfaces. It usually causes coldlike symptoms and a rash, but sometimes it can be fatal.
Anyone not given the measles vaccine or who has received only 1 dose can get measles. Children who are too young to be vaccinated have a high risk of infection. Unvaccinated people who travel internationally, attend college, or work in a hospital are also at increased risk. People with vitamin A deficiency may have a more severe case.
The first measles symptoms are high fever, runny nose, cough, loss of appetite, and conjunctivitis (red, watery eyes). After a few days, Koplik spots appear inside of the mouth and can look like grains of salt. Shortly thereafter, a rash of red, flat to slightly raised spots develops. It starts on the face and spreads downward to the rest of the body. The symptoms may last for a week after the rash appears. Some people may have a more severe case that can lead to ear infections, diarrhea, pneumonia, or encephalitis (an inflammation of the brain that can be deadly). Measles can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, or premature delivery in pregnant women. An infected mother may also deliver a newborn with measles.
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Balu B, Mostow EN. Measles. JAMA Dermatol. 2019;155(12):1436. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2019.2663
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