Measles (Rubeola) is a highly contagious disease that can cause serious health complications. It begins with a prodrome of fever, cough, coryza (runny nose), and conjunctivitis (pink eye) which lasts two to four days prior to rash (typically maculopapular) onset. The incubation period from exposure to fever onset is usually about 10 days (range, 7 to 12 days) and from exposure to rash onset is usually 14 days (range, 7 to 21 days). It is transmitted through direct contact with infectious droplets and by airborne spread when an infected person cough or sneezes. According to CDC, if one person has measles, up to 9 out of 10 people around the infected person will become infected if not protected.i
- All suspected cases* of measles must be immediately reported to DC Health by completing the Notifiable Disease and Condition Case report Form using DCRC our online reporting system available on the Infectious Diseases website or calling 202-442-8141
*NOTE: The case assessment algorithm document provided in the “Tools and Resources” section can be used to determine suspected cases of measles.
Lab Testing – Information on what specimen to collect and how to submit them
Laboratory testing for measles is available through the DC Public Health Laboratory. All testing must be approved by DC Health before submitting to DC PHL.
Specimen Collection** – collect the samples for the following testing as soon as measles is suspected:
PCR testing: Nasopharyngeal or throat specimen using synthetic or flocked polyester swabs should be collect. Swabs should be placed in 2 ml of standard viral transport medium (VTM). Refrigerate samples at 4°C for shipment within 24 hours and ship on cold packs (freeze at -70°C if delay in shipping).
Serology testing: Serum in a red-top or serum separator tube for IgG and IgM testing.
**It is critical to collect both specimens for testing to confirm the diagnosis of measles.
Please complete and include the External Chain of Custody, PHL Test Request Form, or any other forms as indicated by the epidemiologist.*** The forms can be found on the DC PHL Clinical Testing and Specimen Submission forms page.
***Samples submitted without the appropriate forms will be rejected.
Tools and Resources
Measles Case Assessment – a quick guidance for screening, assessing risk, and determining if testing is needed for measles
Infection Control Measures Recommendation in HealthCare settings
Additional Resources for Providers