Reviewed by Hansa Bhargava on February 05, 2015
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Dr. Michael Smith: We’re facing the worst measles epidemic in 20 years. And that’s after doctors thought it was eliminated in the year 2000. Many people forget that this is one of the most contagious diseases out there. It can be transmitted by coughs or sneezes and then can survive on a surface - or even in the air - for 2 hours. If you’re exposed and haven’t gotten the measles vaccine, there’s a 90% chance you’ll get infected. Here’s how it happens once you’ve caught the bug. After you’re exposed to the virus, theres a 10 to 12 day period before you develop any symptoms. Then it starts out like a cold or flu with a fever, cough, and runny nose. You’re contagious at that point. After a few days, the telltale red full-body rash appears. It’s contagious for as long as 8 days, which allows the disease to spread far and wide. But that’s just the start. Measles can cause pneumonia, brain swelling, seizures, or meningitis. And about 1 out of every 500 people die from the disease. Last year 644 people caught measles, so we’re in the danger zone. We can stop these outbreaks from happening by getting your kids vaccinated, and once again eliminate measles. For WebMD, I’m Dr. Michael Smith.