Neurologic diseases are important complications of measles. The role of virus infection of the central nervous system as well as the route of virus entry has been unclear. Five autopsied cases of individuals who died with severe acute measles 3-10 d after the onset of the rash were studied for evidence of viral involvement of the central nervous system. In all cases, in situ hybridization and RT-PCR in situ hybridization techniques showed endothelial cell infection. Immunoperoxidase staining with an anti-ferritin antibody revealed a reactive microgliosis. These data suggest that endothelial cells in the brain are frequently infected during acute fatal measles. This site of infection may provide a portal of entry for virus in individuals who subsequently develop subacute sclerosing panencephalitis or measles inclusion body encephalitis and a target for immunologic reactions in post-measles encephalomyelitis.