Signs & symptoms of measles
What you need to know about this highly contagious virus
December 2, 2021
What is measles?
Measles is a highly contagious virus that is usually passed through direct contact and through air. The virus infects the respiratory tract, then spreads throughout the body. Symptoms appear 10 to 12 days after infection with the virus.
Learn the symptoms
The most common symptoms of measles include:
may spike to
more than 40°C (104°F)
Red, watery eyes
Spots in the mouth
2-3 days after symptoms begin
3-5 days after symptoms begin
Measles is highly contagious
- Measles can cause serious health complications, affecting several organ systems such as ears, eyes leading to blindness, gastrointestinal tract, central nervous system including inflammation of the brain and death.
- Approximately 30 percent of reported measles cases have one or more complications, such as encephalitis or pneumonia.
- Approximately 567 people die from measles-related complications each day, that equates to 24 deaths every hour.
Understanding measles outbreaks
Before the introduction of a measles vaccine in 1963, measles caused an estimated 2.6 million deaths annually.
143 countries reported 869,770 measles cases globally in 2019
World Health Organization (WHO) member states reported more measles cases in 2019 than in any single year since 1996.
In 2020, the number of reported measles cases was lower, likely due in part to regulations put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, these same regulations led to a disruption in health services in the majority of countries, including a decrease in routine vaccinations, which leads experts to believe there could be an uptick in measles cases as restrictions ease.
Measles is still common in many parts of the world, and travelers with measles can bring the disease to countries that have largely eliminated it. Measles can spread rapidly.