Measles Virus: History, Symptoms, Vaccine Quick Facts

By Dr. Kyle Smart, DO, Chief Medical Officer

Cucamonga Valley Medical Group
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), from January 1 to April 11, 2019, there have been 555 individual cases of measles confirmed in the United States. This is the country’s second largest number of reported cases since measles was eliminated in 2000.
While the current outbreak is top-of-mind, the origin of measles dates back to the post-World War I era of jazz and prohibition and the post-World War II era of rock and roll and the civil rights movement.
Measles, also called rubeola, was in the background and infected 80 percent of people by age 10 and almost everyone by age 15.
It’s estimated that before 1963, three to four million people were infected each year in the United States with measles, of those, 400-500 would lose their life, just under 50,000 people would need hospitalization, and 1,000 would develop encephalitis or swelling of the brain.
The World Health Organization estimates that at that time, measles caused 2.6 million deaths worldwide, per year.
Measles is a highly-contagious virus from the Family: Paramyxoviridae, and Genus: Morbillivirus.
Measles is easily spread from person-to-person by coughing or sneezing, and can live up to two hours in the air or on a surface where someone coughed or sneezed.


Measles Symptoms

The associated symptoms typically present themselves within seven to 14 days after a person is infected with the disease and intensifies as time goes on.

Initial symptoms include:
  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Red and watery eyes
  • Runny nose

Another early symptom of measles are Koplik spots that appear inside of the infected person’s mouth.

These symptoms then give way to flat, red spots on the face that ultimately spread and cover the entire body.


Measles Recovery

Most people make a full recovery from the measles and few people will develop further complications.

However, about 10 percent of those infected will develop ear infections or diarrhea and about five percent will develop pneumonia.

Approximately one out of 1,000 will develop encephalitis, which can lead to permanent brain damage, hearing loss, and/or seizures. The estimated death rate from measles is 1-2 out of 1,000.

Subacute sclerosing panencephalitis is a central nervous system disease that develops seven to 10 years after measles infection, when the person is thought to be long recovered from the disease. This is a particularly tragic complication of the measles. It’s extremely rare, but fatal.


Measles Vaccine

The first vaccine for measles was developed in 1963 by John Enders and colleagues. This vaccine was further refined and improved by Maurice Hilleman and colleagues in 1968 and is still in use.

Today, the measles vaccine is usually combined and given with the mumps and rubella vaccines, for a three-in-one vaccine commonly called MMR.

The Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR) Vaccine has faced harsh criticism for its suggested connection to autism. However, claims were dispelled in a recent study out of Denmark that confirms in the Annals of Internal Medicine that the MMR vaccine does not cause autism.


Below are four, science-based
quick facts about the MMR vaccine:

  1. The MMR vaccine is considered to be one of the most effective vaccines.


  2. The MMR vaccine does not contain thimerosal. In fact, thimerosal has been removed from nearly all routinely used childhood vaccines with the exception of the flu shot.


  3. The MMR vaccine isn’t 100 percent free of side effects. However, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the chance of developing encephalitis, which causes inflammation of the brain tissue, after an MMR shot is one in three million.


  4. The MMR vaccine resulted in an 80 percent drop in deaths and prevented an estimated 21.1 million deaths associated with measles between 2000 and 2017.


Our goal at CMVG is to provide our staff and patients with the information and education they need to make informed decisions about vaccinations.

Although we’re happy to work with our patients through these discussions, CVMG supports the use of vaccines as recommended by the American Academy of Family Practice, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

If you have any questions about vaccinations or why CVMG has chosen a pro-vaccine stance, please do not hesitate to schedule an appointment with one of our providers.