Measles (rubeola) is a highly contagious infection of the respiratory system that is caused by a virus. It does not occur often in the United States, since immunizations have been required since the 1960s. The development (incubation) period, after the measles virus infects the upper airways (upper respiratory tract), is about 10 days. This child then has 3 or 4 days of cold-like symptoms, followed by a rash. The child usually is well after 2 weeks of illness and then has life-long resistance (immunity) to becoming infected again.Complications from measles more commonly occur in children aged younger than 5 and adults older than 20. Serious complications of measles include blindness, inflammation of the brain caused by infection (encephalitis), severe diarrhea that may potentially lead to dehydration, ear infections, and severe respiratory infections. The most common cause of death associated with measles is from pneumonia. The majority of deaths from measles occur in developing countries.
German measles (rubella) is caused by the rubella virus and spreads among humans through contact with fluids in the respiratory tract. The development (incubation) period of German measles is 14–21 days before starting to feel ill, and a rash accompanied by fever appears 1–7 days later. German measles occurs more commonly in the spring and summer months. Even in a person with a weak immune system, German measles is usually a mild illness. However, if a pregnant woman becomes infected, German measles can cause severe damage to the unborn baby.
Measles cases are on the rise in 2013 with recent outbreaks in several states. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 159 cases of measles from January to August, 2013. Most cases were in persons who were unvaccinated (131 [82%]) or had unknown vaccination status (15 [9%]). The biggest outbreaks were in New York, North Carolina and Texas. Measles had been virtually eliminated through vaccination in 2000. But the measles virus continues to be imported to the U.S. from other countries where vaccination rates are much lower and then spread through populations in the U.S. where vaccination rates are low.
Measles has been on the rise in the US. This is due, in part, to concerns regarding the safety of the MMR vaccine. Although recent research has provided strong evidence against the association of autism with MMR vaccine administration, some parents still choose to request one or more vaccine exemptions on the basis of personal beliefs for their child to attend day care or school.