What is measles?
Measles, also known as Rubeola or Morbilli is an infection caused by the virus called Rubeola.
It is a highly contagious viral infectious disease affecting the respiratory system. You can get infected if he comes into contact with infected saliva or mucus.
When a person suffering from measles infection, coughs or sneezes, he releases the germs into the air. The germs lie active for many hours on various surfaces and infect other people who come into contact.
This disease generally affects children the most, though it can also affect adults. It can be prevented, however, through the vaccination.
If you observe any measles-related signs or symptoms, or if you feel you have been exposed to someone who has measles, you need to contact your doctor immediately.
In the case of exposure to an infected person, the doctor can advise you to go with the MMR vaccine, also called immune globulin, which will reduce the risk of your developing measles.
The doctor may then monitor you for a few days for any signs and symptoms of measles.
If you develop measles you will be advised by the doctor not to move with other people for fear of the infection spreading.
It is also recommended to let your doctor know in advance that you are coming for consultation for suspected measles infection so that the doctor can take adequate precautions against the spread of infection.
Measles disease is a leading cause of death in children with around 114,900 global deaths related to measles in 2014, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that most of the victims were under the age of 5.
How does measles occur?
You can get infected with measles disease if:
- You come into physical contact with an already infected person
- Touch any surface which contains the virus and then touch your mouth, nose or eye etc..
- You are moving with an infected person who coughs or sneezes
As soon as the virus enters into the body it starts multiplying in your throat, lungs, the lymphatic system, urinary tract, eyes, blood vessels and the central nervous system.
According to experts, this virus takes 1 to 3 weeks to establish itself in the human body. For the symptoms of measles to appear, it will take approximately 10 to 12 days after the exposure.
The very first symptom that an infected person will experience is a fever.
After 2 to 3 days of the fever, a reddish brown spotty rash will gradually appear behind ears and spread across the head, forehead, and the rest of the body.
This spots may gradually link together to form large dark blotchy patches. The rash is a classic symptom of this disease.
This spotty rash can last for over weeks. Small greyish-white spots with bluish-white centers may appear inside the mouth, cheeks, and throat. Such spots are known as Koplik’s spots.
During this period, if any person, who has not been vaccinated, comes in contact with infected person, especially to bodily fluids, the person will be immediately infected.
Measles can be prevented through the vaccination. However, the measles vaccine is not recommended for the people such as…
- Pregnant women
- A person with impaired immune systems.
- People suffering from fatal illnesses, like leukemia.
- People who are allergic to ingredients in the vaccine like neomycin
- A person who have recently received immunoglobulin (IG), blood, or plasma
- An individual suffering from active and untreated tuberculosis
After suffering from measles once, an individual develops immunity to it. There are, however, rare cases of measles occurring a second time in very few people.
Pictures of Measles Infection
What are the symptoms of measles?
Some of the common symptoms of measles are:
- High fever (105F) which rises and drops intermittently, and continues for a couple of days.
- Constantly watering or inflamed eyes
- A dry cough
- Running nose
- Sneezing intermittently
- A reddish-brown spotty rash which appears 3 to 4 days after the initial symptoms and spreads across the body. The rash can last for a week.
- Red eyes
- A sore Throat
- Small greyish-white spots with bluish-white centres can appear inside the mouth, cheeks, and throat.
- Body ache
- Light sensitivity
- Muscle aches
Who is at high risk to measles?
The first vaccine for measles is given to children who are 12 months old. Thus, Babies who are younger than 12 months old are at high risk of measles infection.
The vaccine is given at 12 months of age as most of the mothers would have already suffered from this infection earlier and during pregnancy pass on certain passive antibodies to their babies that can protect the baby during the first year and renders the vaccine inoperative.
A person suffering from chronic illnesses or auto-immune diseases are at the high risk of getting infected with this disease. For these people, measles may become potentially life-threatening.
Children who have not been vaccinated and are over five years old are highly susceptible to measles but are less likely to develop any serious or life-threatening complications.
Individuals with a deficiency of vitamin A are at high risk of developing measles.
Adults above 20 years of age who have not been inoculated may contract the disease and are likely to develop serious or life-threatening complications
Diagnosis of measles
Generally, a doctor easily diagnoses measles by gauging the symptoms.
A general physician can diagnose measles by examining skin rash and checking for symptoms that are characteristic of the disease, like white spots in the mouth, fever, cough, and sore throat.
He can advise you to undergo a blood test to confirm that the Rubeola virus is in your bloodstream.
What are the complications of measles?
As mentioned above, Children suffering from measles who are not yet 12 months old are at high risk of experiencing measles-related complications such as:
- Otitis (which is an inner ear infection or inflammation)
In general measles-related complications can be:
- Laryngitis (inflammation of the voice box)
- Bronchitis (inflammation of the inner walls of the air passages)
- Respiratory problems
- Otitis (The inner ear infection or inflammation)
- Febrile convulsions (fits caused by fever)
Few rare complications that may occur in a person with low immunity are:
- Decreased blood platelet count
- Neuritis (which is infected optic nerve leading to blindness)
- Heart-related complications
- Nervous system complications
- Brain disease
What is the treatment for measles?
A person who has not been vaccinated for measles but who have been exposed to the Rubeola virus can be given the measles vaccination within 72 hours of exposure which will provide protection against the disease.
In case of full-fledged measles infection, the doctor can prescribe fever reducers.
Antibiotics cannot kill the measles virus but can be prescribed by the doctor, along with vitamins, in order to prevent or reduce secondary complications.
The doctor can also prescribe Vitamin A, as Vitamin A deficiency puts a person at the risk of contracting measles.
It will take as long as 3 weeks to recover from a bout of measles.
A Doctor may recommend:
- Acetaminophen/Paracetamol to relieve fever and muscle aches
- Rest to boost your immune system
- Enough fluids (6 to 8 glasses of water a day)
- Humidifier to relieve cough and sore throat
- Vitamin A supplements
How to prevent measles?
Immunizations may help prevent a measles outbreak.
The MMR vaccine is a 3-in-1 vaccination which can protect you and your children from the measles, mumps, and rubella (German measles).
Children can receive their first MMR vaccination at 12 months, or sooner if travelling internationally, and their second dose between the ages of 4 to 6 years.
Adults who have never received an immunization can request this vaccine from the doctor.
If you or a family member contracts the measles virus, limit interaction with other people by staying home from school or work and avoiding social activities.
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