Here are some facts that you need to know about Measles:
- Measles is one of the foremost reasons for death among children in their toddlerhood to around adolescence. This occurs in spite of the fact that a cost-effective and safe vaccine is available all over the world.
- Vaccination has resulted in a decrease of deaths caused due to measles by a huge 79% during the period 2000 to 2014, globally.
- In 2014, about 85% of the world's children received one dose of measles vaccine by the time the babies are a year old through routine health check-up – up from 73% in 2000.
- During 2000-2014, measles vaccination helped prevent approximately 17 million deaths.
What is Measles actually?
Measles is a contagious illness caused by virus. It spreads through air basically – via cough, sneeze. People who recover from this illness, similar to chicken pox, have the immunity to the virus for the remainder of their lives.
How is Measles caused?
Measles is caused by the measles virus (from the paramyxovirus family). It spreads via air – through cough and sneeze droplets.
What are the Signs and symptoms of Measles?
- Runny nose
- Dry cough and a sore throat
- Inflammation in the eyes (conjunctivitis)
- Koplik's spots – These are tiny white spots on a red background found inside the mouth on the inner lining of the cheek
- Skin rashes
The infection occurs in successive phases over a duration of 2-3 weeks.
- Infection and gestation period of virus – The initial 10-14 days post-infection is when the virus incubates in the body. There are no signs/symptoms of the illness during this period.
- General signs and symptoms – The illness usually begins with a mild to moderate fever, which is most often accompanied by a runny nose, persistent cough, sore throat and inflammed eyes (conjunctivitis). This is relatively mild and could last about 2-3 days.
- Severe illness and rashes – Rashes appear as small red spots, some may be slightly raised.
- Over the following few days, the rashes spread over to the arms, trunk, then spread to thighs and feet. The spread of rashes is usually accompanied by a sharp rise in fever, which can go as high as 40 to 41 C (104 to 105.8 F). The rashes slowly recede, first from the face and finally from the feet and thighs.
A person who has had measles is infectious to others for a total of about 8 days, 4 days before the rashes start to appear and end when the rashes have been present for 4 days.
Who is at risk?
Women who get infected when they are pregnant can be at risk of severe complications - the pregnancy could end in a pre-term delivery or a miscarriage can occur. This can be mainly applicable to women who have not been vaccinated.
Children who have not been vaccinated for measles put themselves at the highest risk of the illness and also its complications, including death.
On a general note, any person who has not been vaccinated for measles can become infected.
Measles is still common in several developing countries including parts of Asia and Africa.
How does Measles spread?
The measles virus is highly contagious virus and as mentioned earlier spreads by sneezing and coughing. Close contact with the infected person who also has cough and cold will also play a huge role in spreading of the virus.
The virus is seen to remain active as well as is contagious when present in the air or on surfaces that have been infected for as long as 2 hours. The transmission occurs from an infected person 4 days before the rashes occur till about 4 days after the rash erupts.
How can Measles be treated?
There is no specific treatment for this illness. Complications arising from measles can be prevented via adequate intake of fluids, mostly in the form of ORS (Oral Rehydration Salts) as prescribed by WHO. It is very essential that dehydration be avoided because vomiting or diarrhoea can lead to excessive loss of fluids and essential elements. Always consult a doctor for medication.
How can measles be prevented?
There is a very safe, effective and inexpensive measles vaccine available for children. Most often the measles vaccine is usually administered in combination with mumps and/or rubella vaccines (MMR) in countries where all 3 illnesses are common.
The effect is same whether the vaccine is administered in single or combination combined form. It is recommended that 2 doses of the vaccine be administered in order to ensure immunity and also prevent outbreaks, since it was noted that about 15% of the children who had been vaccinated failed to develop immunity from only the first dose. Hence the second becomes important.
Have you immunized your child yet? If not, please consult your child’s paediatrician and get it done as early as possible. Want to find out more about vaccination and it effects?
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World Health Organisation
by Hridya Anand
A biochemist by education who could never put what she studied to good use, finally found GetDoc as a medium to do what she loved - bring information to people using a forum that is dedicated to all things medical. View all articles by Hridya Anand.