Description, Causes and Risk Factors:

ICD-10: B05.9

Alternative Name: Red measles, 5-day measles, hard measles.

Rubeola is a highly contagious, acute viral infection, which causes an illness displaying a characteristic skin rash called Koplik's spots.

Rubeola is caused by a paramyxovirus and is spread by airborne droplets or direct contact with nasopharyngeal secretion. Once someone is infected with the virus, it takes about 7-18 days before he or she actually becomes ill.

Rubeola is spread through close contact with an infected person. The highly contagious virus can be found in the air after someone who is infected with rubeola coughs or sneezes and can be inhaled. The virus can also be spread by direct contact with infected nasal or throat secretions through sharing food, drinks, cigarettes or kissing someone who has the virus. The virus can remain contagious on surfaces for up to two hours. A person can spread rubeola from four days before to four days after the rash develops.

Rubeola can also make a pregnant woman have a miscarriage or give birth prematurely.

While rubeola is almost gone from the United States, it still kills nearly 200,000 people each year around the world.


    Initial symptoms, which usually appear eight to 12 days after infection, include high fever, runny nose, cough, sore eyes, and tinywhite spots on the inside of the mouth. A red blotchy rash appears on the face and then on the rest of the body.

  • Rubeola can also cause ear infections or pneumonia. Swelling of the brain (encephalitis) occurs in onechild out of 1000. This can lead to seizures, deafness, brain damage, or sometime even death.


Rubeola is diagnosed by a history of exposure to the disease, symptoms, and laboratory testing.

Clinical Description:

    An illness characterized by all of the following: ageneralized rash lasting > three days, temperature > 38.3ºC (101ºF), cough or coryza orconjunctivitis.

Laboratory Criteria for Confirmation:

    Positive serologic test for rubeola IgM antibody, OR

  • Significant (generally a fourfold) rise in rubeola antibody level (IgG) using anystandard serologic assay, OR

  • Isolation of rubeola virus from a clinical specimen.

Confirmation of the diagnosis is important as it allows prompt public health follow-up of other people who are at risk of rubeola.


There is no specific treatment for rubeola. Symptoms such as fever and headache may be treated with acetaminophen (Tylenol®) or ibuprofen (Advil®). Drink plenty of fluids such as water, juice and soup and get plenty rest. Supportive care in hospital may be needed for severe infections, but most people can recover at home. If rubeola is suspected, it is important to call ahead before going to your health centre so that the infection is not passed to others.

The best way to protect against rubeola is to immunize your child with MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine. The first dose is given at 12 months of age and the second at 18 months. The vaccine is given at the same time as other routine childhood immunizations.

NOTE: The above information is educational purpose. The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition.

DISCLAIMER: This information should not substitute for seeking responsible, professional medical care.


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