Measles Q&A: What you need to know

Your father and grandma had it. But suddenly measles back on the West Coast -- a rare outbreak that has left many of us asking questions about the highly infectious disease. Here are some answers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Dr. Erica Pan, health officer for Alameda County, where five reported cases of measles lead the Bay Area.

Q. What is the measles?

Measles is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by a virus that can linger in the air up to two hours after an infected person has left the room.

Q. What are the symptoms?

It starts with a fever. Soon after, it causes a cough, runny nose and red eyes. Then a rash of tiny, red spots breaks out. It starts at the head and spreads to the rest of the body.

Q. Are there any complications and can it be deadly?

Measles can be a serious in all age groups. But children younger than 5 and adults older than 20 are more likely to suffer from measles complications, including ear infections and diarrhea. Ear infections occur in about one out of every 10 children with measles and can result in permanent hearing loss.Some people may suffer from severe complications, such as pneumonia and encephalitis (swelling of the brain). They may need to be hospitalized and could die.

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