Measles is an acute, viral, eruptive, and extremely contagious disease which affected practically all children prior to the introduction of vaccination. Today, measles is well controlled and has even been eliminated in many industrialized countries, but remains endemic in many other countries.


Symptoms of measles

The incubation period is approximately 10 days. The disease is characterized by prodromal fever, conjunctivitis, coryza, cough, and Koplik spots on the buccal mucosa.

An erythematous rash appears between the 3rd and 7th day following onset of the first symptoms, beginning on the face and then spreading to the rest of the body. The rash lasts between four and seven days, the first four to five of which the patients remains contagious.

Measles may be associated with severe complications such as otitis media, pneumonia, post-infectious encephalitis, and subacute sclerosing panencephalitis.

No specific treatment is available.


Epidemiology and vaccination against measles

Measles is a strictly human disease responsible in 2008 for an estimated 164,000 deaths in the world (13-14). More than 95% occur in low-income countries with weak health infrastructure.

The measles vaccine may be administered in combination with mumps and rubella vaccines (MMR vaccine).

Eradication of measles is theoretically feasible since the reservoir of the virus is exclusively human.



13 - WHO. Measles; fact sheet N°286, December 2009:

14 - Strebel PM, Papania MJ, Halsey NA. Measles Vaccine. In: Plotkin S, Orenstein WA, editors. VACCINES. 4th ed. 2004. p. 389-440