Measles is a serious, highly contagious viral respiratory disease that is spread both through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes as well as through direct contact with infected nose or throat secretions. This disease has been on the rise throughout the nation throughout the past two months, with a large concentration of cases occurring in mid-to-late March. A dense concentration of the 64 reported cases for this year can be found in Chicago, with 26 current reported cases (40.6% of nationwide reported cases). If you think that you or a family member has been exposed to or has contracted measles, call your healthcare provider as soon as possible. To keep yourself and your loved ones safe and healthy, consider the following information:

What are the signs and symptoms?

  • Rash that starts on the face and neck that is made up of large, flat blotches (Approximately 14 days after exposure)
  • High fever (Approximately 10 days after exposure)
  • Dry cough (persistent)
  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Inflamed eyes (conjunctivitis)
  • Tiny white spots with bluish-white centers on a red background inside of the mouth or inner cheeks – also called Koplik spots

What do incubation and spreading periods look like?

  • An infected individual can spread the virus for a little over a week, approximately 8 days. Individuals are infectious for four days before the rash appears.
  • The infection occurs in stages over 2-3 weeks:
    • Infection and incubation: 10-14 days. No signs or symptoms during this time.
    • Nonspecific signs and symptoms: mild to moderate fever, often accompanied by persistent cough, runny nose, inflamed eyes, and sore throat. This lasts 2-3 days.
    • Acute illness and rash: The face breaks out first with spots and bumps in tight clusters giving the skin a blotchy red appearance. Over the next few days, the rash will spread down the body and the fever will rise sharply (up to 105 F)
    • Recovery: The rash lasts about a week, gradually fading from the face and progressing down the body. The cough and peeling/darkening of skin where the rashes were present may last up to 10 days.

How to prevent contraction/outbreak:

  • Get vaccinated. The MMR vaccine’s two doses are 97% effective in preventing measles for life. It is recommended that children get vaccinated for the first time between 12 and 15 months of age, and the second time between 4 and 6 years of age – before entering school.
    • Vaccination has allowed the US to virtually eliminate the disease in the past- but due to a drop in vaccination rates we have seen a significant increase in measles cases. 
  • Isolate if you know that you have been exposed or infected. If you are infected, isolate for a minimum of 8 days to avoid transmission of the virus to others. 
  • Avoid sharing utensils, water bottles, or other items that may have been contaminated by saliva or respiratory secretions.
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. 
  • Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing. 


Stay safe, and stay healthy McDonough County!


Additional resources:

Illinois Department of Public Health

Mayo Clinic

Centers for Disease Control

Preventing the Spread in Childcare and School Settings

McDonough County Health Department – Get Vaccinated