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Measles, also called rubeola, is best known for its typical skin rash. It is, however, primarily a respiratory infection. The first symptoms are irritability, runny nose, eyes that are red and sensitive to light, hacking cough, and a fever as high as 105 degrees Fahrenheit (40.6 degrees Celsius).

Fever peaks with the appearance of the rash, which typically begins on the forehead, then spreads downward over the face, neck, and body. The child is particularly ill-looking during the first days of the rash. It usually takesÊabout 3 days for the rash to make its way down to the feet. Once the rash appears on the legs and feet, symptoms usually subside within 2 days.

The rash itself looks like large flat red to brown blotches that often flow into one another to completely cover the skin, especially on the face and shoulders. The rash fades in the same order that it appeared, forehead first and feet last.ÊThe total time for the rash, from beginning to end, head to toe, is usually about 6 days. As the rash disappears, the healing skin may look brown temporarily, before it sheds in a finely textured peel.

One special identifying sign of measles is Koplik's spots. These are small, red, irregularly-shaped spots with blue-white centers found inside the mouth. Koplik's spots usually appear 1 to 2 days before the measles rash and may be noticed by a doctor looking for the cause of a child's fever and cough.

Measles can lead to many different complications: croup, bronchitis, bronchiolitis, pneumonia, conjunctivitis, myocarditis, hepatitis, and encephalitis. Measles can also make the body more susceptible to ear infections or pneumonias caused by bacteria. Symptoms and complications of measles are usually most severe in adults.


Measles is a respiratory infection caused by the measles virus.

Conventional Labs

Viral isolation in tissue culture

Detection of measles antigen in exfoliative cells by immunofluorescence

Demonstration of measles specific IgM or substantial rise in IgG tilers between acute and convalescent sera




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