Last reviewed 03/2022

subacute sclerosing pancencephalitis

  • a rare, fatal, late complication of measles infection. One case of SSPE occurs for every 25,000 measles infections
  • in children infected under the age of two, the rate is one in 8000 infections
  • developing measles under one year of age carries a risk of SSPE 16 times greater than in those infected over five years of age
  • median interval from measles infection to onset of symptoms is around seven years but may be as long as two to three decades
  • SSPE may follow an unrecognised measles infection. Wild measles virus has been found in the brain of SSPE cases including those with no history of measles disease

High titres of measles antibody are usually present in the blood and CSF.

Death is inevitable but long periods of survival have been reported.


  1. Immunisation Against Infectious Disease - "The Green Book".Chapter 21 Measles (August 2006)