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Measles can be serious in all age groups. However, children younger than 5 years of age and adults older than 20 years of age are more likely to suffer from measles complications. Common measles complications include ear infections and diarrhea. Some people may suffer from severe complications, such as pneumonia (infection of the lungs) and encephalitis (swelling of the brain). Complications can result in hospitalization and even death. Measles may cause pregnant women to give birth prematurely or have a low-birth-weight baby.
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The symptoms of measles generally begin about seven to 14 days after exposure but can take as long as 21 days. The symptoms include:
A typical case of measles begins with fever, cough, runny nose, and red eyes. Two or three days after symptoms begin, tiny white spots may appear inside the mouth. Three to five days after the start of symptoms, a flat red rash appears on the face, usually at the hairline, and spreads downward to the chest and back. When the rash appears, the fever may spike to more than 104 degrees Fahrenheit. After a few days, the fever usually subsides and the rash fades in the order it appeared.
Infected people can spread measles to others from four days before through four days after the rash appears.
There is no treatment or cure for measles. Medical care is supportive and can help relieve symptoms and address any complications that may develop.
If you have been exposed to measles and have a fever, stay home except to see a health care provider. If you need to see your health care provider, call ahead so that appropriate measures can be taken to avoid spreading measles to others.
Getting the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine is the best way to prevent measles. You are considered to be protected against the measles virus if you have records showing: