Skip directly to local search Skip directly to A to Z list Skip directly to navigation Skip directly to site content Skip directly to page options
CDC Home

Volume 12, Number 4—April 2006


Etymologia: measles

Suggested citation for this article


Highly contagious disease caused by a virus of the genus Morbillivirus, marked by an eruption of distinct, red, circular spots. From the Middle Dutch masel, “blemish.” References to the disease date back to at least 700 ad, but the first recorded scientific description of measles was in the 10th century ad by the Persian physician Ibn Razi, who described it as “more dreaded than smallpox.” Prior to 1963, when the first measles vaccine was licensed, 3–4 million cases and 450 deaths occurred in the United States every year. Measles remains a primary cause of death in developing nations, where vitamin A deficiency is common. According to the World Health Organization, measles is the leading cause of vaccine-preventable death in children; it is responsible for ≈850,000 deaths each year.

Sources: Merriam-Webster’s collegiate dictionary. 11th ed. Springfield (MA): Merriam-Webster Incorporated; 2003; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Measles history. Available from; and World Health Organization. Measles mortality reduction and regional elimination. Available from

Suggested Citation: Etymologia: measles. Emerg Infect Dis [serial on the Internet]. 2006, May [date cited].

DOI: 10.3201/eid1204.ET1204

Related Links

Top of Page

Table of Contents – Volume 12, Number 4—April 2006

Comments to the EID Editors

Please contact the EID Editors via our Contact Form.


Past Issues

Select a Past Issue:

Art in Science - Selections from Emerging Infectious Diseases
Now available for order

CDC 24/7 – Saving Lives, Protecting People, Saving Money. Learn More About How CDC Works For You… The U.S. Government's Official Web PortalDepartment of Health and Human Services
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention   1600 Clifton Rd. Atlanta, GA 30333, USA
800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636) TTY: (888) 232-6348 - Contact CDC–INFO