Measles: Measles, also known as rubeola, is a highly contagious (easily spread) disease caused by the rubeola virus. Measles is contracted through exposure to other individuals infected with the rubeola virus.
Most individuals in the United States are vaccinated against measles as children.
The incubation period of measles from when the individual is exposed to when the rash develops is generally 14 days, with a range of 7-18 days. The disease is usually contagious (easily spread) to others from four days before until four days after the onset of the rash in the individual. Measles is spread very easily from person to person, when droplets of the virus are circulated through the air from an infected person coughing or sneezing.
The main symptom of measles is an itchy skin rash. The rash often starts on the head and moves down the body. Other symptoms include: fever, cough, runny nose, and conjunctivitis (also known as pink eye).
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more than 30 million individuals are affected each year by measles worldwide, with more than one million deaths.
In response to the widespread use of the measles vaccine, the number of U.S. measles cases has steadily declined over the last 50 years. There were several thousand cases of the measles in 1950 before the measles vaccination was available, but in 2002 there were just 44.
Measles may lead to serious health problems. There is no treatment for measles, but the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine can prevent it. Approximately 2% of individuals with measles will die.
Mumps: Mumps is a viral infection that primarily affects the parotid glands. The parotid glands are one of three pairs of salivary glands, located below and in front of the ears. If an individual contracts mumps, swelling due to fluid accumulation can occur in one or both parotid glands.
Mumps is transmitted by direct contact with saliva and discharges from the nose and throat of the infected individual.
The odds of contracting mumps are low in the United States. Mumps was common in the United States until the mumps vaccine was licensed in 1967. Before the vaccine, up to 200,000 cases of mumps occurred each year in the United States. Since then, the number of cases has dropped dramatically.
Rubella: Rubella, also known as German measles or three-day measles, is a contagious viral infection of the respiratory system best known by the distinctive red rash that may appear on the skin of those who contract it. Rubella is neither as infectious nor usually as severe as measles. However, if a pregnant woman contracts rubella, especially during her first trimester, the virus can cause death or serious birth defects in the developing fetus. Rubella is now rare in the United States because most children receive a vaccination against the infection at an early age. However, cases of rubella do occur, mostly in unvaccinated foreign-born adults and unvaccinated children. The disease is still common in many parts of the world, although more than half of all countries now use a rubella vaccine. The prevalence of rubella in some other countries is high, and it is highly recommended by healthcare providers that unvaccinated individuals be vaccinated before going abroad, especially if the individual is pregnant.
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