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June 27, 2023
Measles is a highly contagious viral illness that typically begins with a prodrome of fever, cough, coryza (runny nose), and conjunctivitis (pink eye), lasting 2-4 days prior to rash onset. Measles can cause severe health complications, including pneumonia, encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), and death. The virus is transmitted by direct contact with infectious droplets or by airborne spread when an infected person breathes, coughs, or sneezes. Measles virus can remain infectious in the air and on surfaces for up to 2 hours after an infected person leaves an area. Measles is transmitted by contact with an infected person through coughing and sneezing. Infected people are contagious from 4 days before the rash starts through 4 days afterward. The incubation period for measles from exposure to fever is usually about 10 days (range 7 to 12 days), and from exposure to rash onset is usually about 14 days (range 7 to 21 days). Declines in measles vaccination rates globally during the COVID-19 pandemic have increased the risk of larger measles outbreaks worldwide, including in the United States.
Measles outbreaks are occurring in all World Health Organization (WHO) regions. Large and disruptive outbreaks (≥20 reported measles cases per million population during a 12-month period) have been reported in the European, African, Eastern Mediterranean, Western Pacific, and Southeast Asian regions during 2023. In the United States, measles is commonly associated with unvaccinated U.S. travelers returning from other countries where measles is actively circulating. International visitors and returning U.S. travelers can expose U.S. residents in transit and after arrival, leading to additional cases and the possibility for larger outbreaks.
For more information, see full CDC HAN Alert