The rash of measles, also known as rubeola, starts on the head and spreads to the trunk and extremities over a few days, similar to the way the current measles outbreak started in California and has spread to at last count 14 states.
What is measles? It used to be one of the “childhood diseases” that most of us over age 55 years contracted as children, prior to the use of the vaccine. It is caused by a virus in the Paramyxoviridae family and spread by person to person contact.
Symptoms of measles include cough, nasal drainage, reddened, inflamed eyes, and a rash as pictured below.
There is no specific treatment and it runs its course in about 1-2 weeks. Antibiotics are not effective . Most of those infected recover uneventfully but there can be serious complications including pneumonia and encephalitis (inflammation of the brain).
After the measles vaccine was introduced in 1963 the number of reported cases was reduced by 99%. In 2000 measles was declared no longer endemic ( occurring routinely) in the United States. Thus an outbreak this widespread is a major setback in the control of infectious disease.
Measles vaccine is usually administered as a “3 in 1” vaccine- the MMR, which has been vilified as a possible cause of autism, although that has been thoroughly discredited. The other two letters in the mix stand for mumps and rubella (also known as German measles) both of which are also caused by viruses and for which no treatment exists. (Rubella is also associated with a rash)
Mumps, another once common childhood disease, doesn’t cause a rash.
You can listen to a podcast or read the transcript of a talk by 2 docs about mumps at this link.