In a West African urban community, measles infection in infants was examined over 5 years (1979-1983). In the age group 0 to 11 months, measles mortality was higher among secondary cases (infected in the house) than among index cases (infected outside the house), and the proportion of secondary cases was significantly higher for this age group than for older children. Intensive exposure related to the social pattern of disease transmission may be important in explaining the high infant mortality observed with measles in developing countries. Mortality during the first 12 months of life increased with age, presumably because of the decrease of maternally derived measles antibodies. In children younger than 6 months of age, who are usually considered to be protected by maternal antibody, intensive exposure may lead to infection, as demonstrated by a high level of measles-specific antibodies in some children exposed to an older sibling with measles. The aim of public health policies should be to change conditions of exposure.