UT University Health Services

Information about Measles (Rubeola)

What is measles?

Measles, also known as Rubeola, is a highly contagious and potentially serious disease caused by the measles virus.

It easily spreads through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes and can live for up to two hours in an airspace where an infected person has coughed or sneezed. If another person breathes the contaminated air or touches a contaminated surface and then touches their eyes, nose, or mouth, they can become infected. Measles is so contagious that if one person has it, 90% of the people in close proximity to that person who are not immune will become infected.

Am I at Risk?

According to the United States Centers for Disease Control, Measles vaccine is the best way to prevent the illness. This vaccine is included in the combination measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) and measles-mumps-rubella-varicella (MMRV) vaccines. Two doses of either vaccine is recommended for maximum protection against measles.

The measles vaccine is very effective. One dose is about 93% effective at preventing measles if exposed to the virus, and two doses are about 97% effective.

You are at risk if you have not been vaccinated or have received only one measles-containing vaccine, have not had measles, or have received notification that you may have been exposed to a person with a confirmed measles infection. 

Actions to Take

If you have symptoms of measles (see below), seek medical care.

  • Students should call University Health Services (UHS) at (512) 471-4955 or the UHS UHS Nurse Advice Line (512) 475-NURS (6877) BEFORE COMING TO UHS. Let the nurse know that you have been in contact with someone who has a confirmed measles infection. Staff will arrange for you to be seen at UHS while reducing the exposure risk to patients.
  • Faculty/staff should contact their healthcare provider.

If you have never received a measles-containing vaccine or have had only one dose of measles-containing vaccine and have never had a healthcare provider diagnose you with measles, seriously consider initiating or completing the measles vaccine series.

If you know or have been notified that you’ve been exposed to a person with measles, contact a healthcare provider (see below) who can help determine your immunity, provide information about precautions, and tell you how to get an MMR, if you’re not immunized or otherwise immune.

  • Students can call the UHS 24-hr Nurse Advice Line at (512) 475-NURS (6877).
  • Faculty/staff should contact their healthcare provider.

If you’ve received two doses of measles vaccine (MMR) or know that you have immunity to measles based on a laboratory test or a prior healthcare provider’s diagnosis of measles, no action is needed.

Measles Symptoms

  • A high fever that usually appears 10-12 days after exposure and lasts from a few days to one week.
  • The fever is followed by a cough, runny nose, and red, watery eyes.
  • Three to five days after symptoms begin, a rash appears – usually starting as flat, red spots on the face at the hairline that spread to the neck, trunk, arms, legs, and feet. Small raised bumps may also appear on top of the flat, red spots. Tiny white spots (Koplik Spots) can also appear in the mouth.
  • After a few days, the fever subsides, and the rash fades.

Measles can be spread to others from four days before to four days after the rash appears.

Measles can be serious in all age groups. Children younger than five and adults older than 20 are more likely to experience complications from measles. About one in four people who get measles will be hospitalized.

  • Common complications include diarrhea and ear infections, which can lead to permanent hearing loss.
  • Severe complications include pneumonia and encephalitis (swelling of the brain).

Preventing the Spread of Measles

If you have measles, avoid spreading the virus to others:

  • Minimize close contact with others. Avoid contact with babies, pregnant women, people with weakened immune systems, and those who have not been vaccinated against measles.
  • Stay home from school, work, and social opportunities until your healthcare provider says you can return to these activities.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough and sneeze, and put used tissues directly in the trash. If you don't have a tissue, cough and sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow, not your hands.
  • Clean your hands thoroughly and often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Don't share drinks, eating utensils, or smoking implements.
  • Regularly clean surfaces that you frequently touch (e.g. doorknobs, keyboards, tables, counters) with soap and water or cleaning wipes.

Resources for More Information

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