For years, measles has been rare in the United States, thanks to immunization. But recently, that has changed. This year we’ve seen lots of outbreaks, mostly started by unimmunized people going to or coming from countries that have lots of measles—and then giving the infection to unimmunized people here. In Massachusetts we have had 24 cases of measles this year—19 since May!
What is measles?
Measles, also called rubeola, is a very contagious respiratory illness.
What causes it?
Measles is caused by a virus. It is spread through the air when people with the illness cough, sneeze, or simply breathe near someone else. It lives in the mucus of infected people, so if an infected person has mucus on their hands (from touching their mouth or nose) and touches something (like a doorknob), they can leave the virus behind for others to catch.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of measles include fever, runny nose, sore throat, rash, red eyes, cough, and body aches. Sometimes people with measles get white spots in their mouth called Koplik spots. The spots in the mouth and rash usually start a few days after the illness has begun, so at the beginning it can be hard to tell measles from the common cold or flu. …
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