The rash that spreads- what you need to know about measles

The rash of measles, also known as rubeola, starts on the head and spreads to the trunk (chest and upper back) , arms, and legs over a few days .

What is measles?


It used to be one of the “usual 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.

The other childhood diseases were

  • Rubella, or  German measles
  • Chicken pox, or  varicella
  • Roseola
  • Fifth Disease, or erythema infectiosum

These all cause a rash, called an exanthem.

Mumps was also a common childhood disease but does not usually cause a rash.



Symptoms of measles include cough, nasal drainage, reddened, inflamed eyes, and a rash as pictured below.

the rash of measles

image courtesy of the CDC- Centers for Disease Control , U.S. government


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).


Preventing measles and other exanthems

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 public health officials consider an outbreak 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.

No vaccine exists for roseola or Fifth Disease, but we have an effective vaccine for chickenpox.


You can listen to  2 DOCS TALK  about mumps at this link or read the transcript.

Mumps – The Disease, the Vaccine, the Problem

“But recent increases in those who choose to have their children forego vaccines has led to a loss of herd immunity and an increase in these outbreaks.

To further complicate the issue, it seems that immunity wanes with time, which is why many college students (hello spring break!) find themselves falling ill eight to ten years after their last booster at age 12 to 15.”


My family receives vaccines and believe any potential risk is worth the benefit. I urge you to think carefully and talk to a trusted physician before you decide to forgo vaccination for yourself and especially for your children.

Thanks for visiting this blog and considering this vital information as we explore the HEART of health together.

Dr. Aletha 



Should your family receive vaccinations?


Vaccine safety concerns

From parents to politicians everyone seems to have an opinion, much of which is not backed up by science.

Measles outbreaks in the United States highlight the ongoing controversy over to immunize or not to immunize. As a physician I do recommend immunization when indicated; as a person, I received vaccinations for many diseases for which I am at risk, and permitted my children to be vaccinated.

Remember that vaccination or immunization (which are in general terms synonymous) is a medical procedure and vaccines are drugs;  their use should be subject to the same scrutiny as any other drug or procedure.

Until recent years, immunization has been almost universal in the United States, so we forget that its use should be individualized. that is,

What contagious diseases is a person likely to be exposed to?

What are the risks versus benefits of any particular vaccine for that person?

What are the risks versus benefits to other people?

Until the recent decades most people were at risk for most infectious diseases, so we recommended vaccination for everyone, unless contraindicated (this means a medical reason not to do it)


Infectious disease control methods

The  developed countries  have eliminated or controlled many of the environmental sources of contagious disease by manipulating our environment.

  • indoor plumbing
  • water treatment facilities
  • screens on windows
  • air purification
  • wear gloves to prepare food
  • inspect restaurants
  • signs in many public restrooms reminding us to wash our hands.

Hand hygiene saves lives.





However, we have not eliminated another source of infectious disease- and that is other humans.

It is rare that we isolate or quarantine people with infections. Most of us will admit that we have gone to work, school or social events with symptoms suggestive of infection- a cough, runny nose, upset stomach- and by doing so put our friends and colleagues at risk.


Please review these excellent resources on vaccine use

A basic review of  Childhood vaccines  and Adult vaccines from UpToDate, a researched, non- commercial medical publication for doctors and patients

The Science Behind Vaccination from The New York Times

 7 things about vaccines from The Washington Post

Reconsidering vaccination a blog post review of the book The Vaccine Friendly Plan

Voices for Vaccines – a parent-led organization that supports and advocates for on-time vaccination and the reduction of vaccine-preventable disease.


Thanks for reading and sharing this important information about the HEART of health. Please explore more information on this blog.

Dr.  Aletha