Measles is a communicable and seen as a childhood disease, although anyone of any age can catch it.

Cause: Rubeola virus from the Paramyxovirus 

Virus / Bacteria? Virus 

Spread by: Droplet

Immunisation? Yes, part of the MMR vaccine. Infection of the virus causes life long immunity. Immunisation has decreased measles outbreaks significantly in the last few decades

Notifiable? Yes

Higher risk persons: Younger children, immune compromised persons, pregnant women.

Infection summary:

A viral infection, measles is a significant cause of death throughout the world. Starting in the respiratory system and spread through droplets (sneezing, coughing). Measles is highly contagious being spread often before the original person knows they are infected.

Not to be confused with German Measles (Rubella), Measles is a serious disease and can have complications which should be resolved after 2 weeks, but can also be life threatening in rare cases. 

Incubation time: 4 days before the rash appears. The rash is a red effusive rash, especially over the abdomen. Where in Chicken pox the rash is blistery, the measles rash is not as raised and a more pinky colour, with a possibility of strawberry spots appearing with are large, red areas hence the name strawberry spots. 


Measles presents with flu like symptoms and then after a few days, a very specific rash.

  • Fever – above 38 ‘c
  • Cough
  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Kopliks spots – white spots inside the mouth
  • Sensitive to light
  • Red eye / conjunctivitis
  • Rash on the bottom of the feet

Virus Pathway:

The virus infects the respiratory tract first, spreading to other parts of the body. The infection lasts about 2 weeks.


If you suspect measles, get a medical practitioners appointment / opinion as soon as possible.


  • As a viral infection, antibiotics will only be useful for secondary infections.
  • Measles vaccine helps if given within 72 hours of exposure
  • Immunoglobulins – give within a week of exposure
  • Medicine for fever and pain

Nursing care:

  • Isolation
  • Drink plenty or fluids especially during the spells of a raised temperature
  • Rest
  • Humidifier for sore throat
  • Anti – inflammatory and headache medication
  • Avoid bright lights to protect the patient’s eye
  • Keep isolated
  • Wash crockery and cutlery with antiseptic as well eg bleach or vinegar
  • PS PS please remember to wash the bleach / vinegar off the items well before using them again, as it can cause thrush on the patient’s tongue by killing off healthy bacteria.
  • Multi-vitamins builds immunity and helps to recover quicker


  • Diarrhoea, vomiting
  • Eye infections
  • Middle ear infections
  • Sore throat – laryngitis
  • Respiratory infections eg bronchitis, croup, pneumonia

Rare complications:

  • Encephalitis
  • Pneumonia



  • Immunity and avoidance of infected persons are the only way to prevent a measles infection.
  • Immunity is achieved through already having had measles or having had he vaccination.











Nursing Info South Africa

SANC eRegister

SANC fees

Nursing education RSA


This site in no way substitutes medical advice given by a
medical practitioner and is meant as supporting information only.
The information is not intended for harm, to be seen as diagnosis,
or treatment but is infomrational only. Harm may result in ignoring medical
help and treatment, or in the neglecting of the medical treatment given/suggested
to you by your medical practitioner. The staff of the website intend the information
as informational  and supportive only,
and do not endorse self medication or ignoring medical advice.