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What Is Measles

symptoms of measles



Measles is a very infectious illness caused by a virus - a viral infection caused by the rubeola virus. It is an endemic disease; meaning it is continually present in a community and many people develop resistance. If measles enters an area where the people have never been exposed the result can be devastating. A measles outbreak in 1592 in the island of Cuba killed approximately two-thirds of the native population who had previously survived smallpox. A couple of years later half the indigenous population of Honduras died. 

Over the last 150 years estimates place the total global measles death toll at 200 million people. One fifth of Hawaii's population died in the 1850s from measles. 

Scientists have identified 21 different strains of the measles virus.

Etymology of measles (origin of the word)

The English word "measles" is thought to come from the Middle Dutch word masel, meaning "blemish". 

 Some say the word is connected to the Middle English word meseles, the plural of mesel, meaning "infested with tapeworms". The British slang word measly, which appeared in the mid 1860s meaning "meager and contemptible" was an adaptation of the modern word "measles" which had become established before that time


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