Medical Definition of Atypical measles syndrome (AMS)

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Atypical measles syndrome (AMS): An altered expression of measles, AMS begins suddenly with high fever, headache, cough, and abdominal pain. The rash may appear 1 to 2 days later, often beginning on the limbs. Swelling (edema) of the hands and feet may occur. Pneumonia is common and may persist for 3 months or more.

AMS occurs in persons who were incompletely immunized against measle. This may happen if a person were given the old killed-virus measles vaccine (which does not provide complete immunity and is no longer available); or the person were given attenuated (weakened) live measles vaccine that was, by accident, inactivated during improper storage. Immunization with inactivated measles virus does not prevent measles virus infection. It can, however, sensitize a person so that the expression of the disease is altered, resulting in AMS.

Being atypical, AMS can be confused with other entities including Rocky Mountain spotted fever, meningococcal infection, various types of pneumonia, appendicitis, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, etc.

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Reviewed on 12/27/2018

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