Skip to main content

Thurston County, Washington

Public Health and Social Services

What is Measles?

Measles is a serious disease caused by a virus that spreads easily from person to person. Measles causes fever, rash, and other complications. You may have heard measles called rubeola, the 10-day, hard or red measles). Measles is not rubella which is sometimes called the German or 3-day measles.

Measles is a highly contagious and potentially severe disease that causes fever, rash, cough, and red, watery eyes. It is mainly spread through the air after a person with measles coughs or sneezes.

Measles symptoms begin seven to 21 days after exposure. Measles is contagious from approximately four days before the rash appears through four days after the rash appears. People can spread measles before they have the characteristic measles rash.

People at highest risk from exposure to measles include those who are unvaccinated, pregnant women, infants under six months of age and those with weakened immune systems.

What are the Symptoms of Measles?

Symptoms start 7-18 days (usually 10 days) after a person has been in contact (exposed) with someone with the measles and last for 1 to 2 weeks.

The illness starts with a high fever greater than 101 degrees followed by a runny nose, watery red sensitive eyes, and a cough.

Tiny, blue-white spots usually appear in the mouth during the first few days,

A rash appears 14 days after exposure. The measles rash is a raised red rash that starts at the hairline, moves to the face and spreads down the body and out to the arms and legs. The rash usually lasts 4 to 7.

People with measles are contagious for 4 days before and at least 4 days after the rash begins.

Need to get Vaccinated?

Contact your health care provider.

Additional Resources

Measles (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Measles (Washington State Department of Health)