Let’s Talk Measles

In medical school, I was taught how to recognize a viral illness essentially eradicated in the United States. The three “C”s – cough, coryza (inflamed and runny nose) and conjunctivitis – should make you think of measles. If this triad of symptoms is present, check the mouth for Koplik spots (small white spots on a reddened background on the inside of the cheeks) often presenting before the tell-tale maculopapular rash that starts on the head and works its way down the body to the lower extremities. This is the text-book presentation, which is all I have to go off of – as I have never seen a case of measles, despite being in hospital and outpatient clinical settings since 2000.

Over the last couple weeks, I have had parents ask me if measles is really that dangerous. Is it similar to the viruses we see regularly, like Roseola, the Flu and Hand Foot and Mouth disease? The answer is, of course, yes and no. In many affected persons it causes a week of miserable symptom…