Measles is an acute infectious disease occurring mostly in children. It is very easily passed from one person to another. It causes high fever, cough and a rash, and it lasts for 1 - 2 weeks. Measles is a serious disease. Measles, under any circumstances, can cause serious complications. Among these are diarrhoea, encephalitis, otitis media, pneumonia, and exacerbation of protein-energy malnutrition.
One of every 10 children who catch measles will also have an ear infection or pneumonia. Measles can also cause an infection of the brain that could lead to convulsions (seizures, fits, spasms, twitching, jerking, or staring spells), hearing loss, and mental retardation. This happens to about 1 out of every 1,000 children reported to have measles. In the United States, 1 child out of every 500 - 10,000 who gets measles dies from it. Worldwide, as of 1997, 1 million children a year die from measles.
Measles is a major source of unnecessary suffering, premature mortality, and expense. Except in isolated populations, measles is nearly universal, most persons being infected before reaching the age of 15. Babies and adults who catch measles are often much sicker and are more likely to suffer longer or die than elementary school children and teenagers with measles.