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  • Reviewed on 2/13
    By Dr. Czaja

Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR)

Measles is a highly contagious viral infection spread from person to person via coughing, sneezing and breathing. Measles virus causes fever, cough, runny nose, red eyes and sore throat.  Two to three days after symptom onset, tiny white spots may appear inside the mouth.  Three to five days after the start of symptoms, a rash appears on the face at the hairline and spreads down the neck, trunk and extremities. Complications of measles include ear infection, pneumonia, infection of the brain, and death. 

Measles infection during pregnancy can lead to premature delivery, spontaneous abortion or low-birth-weight infants. Before measles vaccine, nearly all children got measles by the time they were 15 years of age.  Since vaccine became available, the incidence of measles in the United States has dropped by more than 99%. Measles cases in the United States are now the result of importation via travelers.

Mumps is a contagious viral infection spread from person to person via coughing, sneezing or talking, or via contaminated items or surfaces.  Mumps virus causes fever, headache, muscle aches, fatigue, and loss of appetite and is followed by swelling of the salivary glands. Complications of mumps include inflammation of the testicles, inflammation of the brain or meningitis, inflammation of the ovaries or breasts, and deafness.  Vaccination has reduced the incidence of mumps dramatically, but outbreaks continue to occur in the United States.

Rubella is a contagious viral infection spread from person to person via coughing or sneezing. Rubella virus causes fever and rash. Complications include inflammation of the brain and low platelet (blood cell) counts. The most important complication of rubella virus is that it can cause birth defects and miscarriage when women are infected early in pregnancy.  Vaccination prevents rubella and congenital rubella syndrome.

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