What are the measles?
Measles, or rubeola, is a viral infection of
the respiratory system. Measles is a very contagious disease that can spread
through contact with infected mucus and saliva. An infected person can release
the infection into the air when they cough or sneeze.
The measles virus can live on surfaces for
several hours. As the infected particles enter the air and settle on surfaces,
anyone within close proximity can become infected.
Drinking from an infected person’s glass, or
sharing eating utensils with an infected person, increases your risk of
Measles is a leading cause of death in
children. Of the 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.
Contact a doctor immediately if you suspect
you have measles. If you have not received a measles vaccine and you come into
contact with an infected person, visit your doctor to receive a measles vaccine
within 72 hours of contact to prevent infection. You can also prevent an
infection with a dose of immunoglobulin taken within six days of contact with
an infected person.
Pictures of measles
What are the symptoms of measles?
Symptoms of measles generally appear within
14 days of exposure to the virus. Symptoms include:
- red eyes
- light sensitivity
- muscle aches
- runny nose
- sore throat
- white spots inside the mouth
A widespread skin rash is a classic sign of
measles. This rash can last up to seven days and generally appears within the
first three to five days of exposure to the virus.
A measles rash, which appears as red, itchy
bumps, commonly develops on the head and slowly spreads to other parts of the
Who is at risk for measles?
The number of measles cases in the United
States has significantly dropped in recent decades due to immunizations.
However, the disease has not been completely eliminated. In fact, there were 189
cases of measles in 2015, according to the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Measles primarily occurs in unvaccinated
children. Some parents choose not to vaccinate their children for fear that
vaccines will have adverse effects on their children. Most children and adults
who receive a measles vaccine do not experience side effects.
But in rare cases, the vaccine has been
linked to seizures, deafness, brain damage, and coma. It is important to note
that these serious side effects from the measles vaccine occur in less than 1
out of every million doses of the vaccine given.
Some parents believe that the measles vaccine
can cause autism in children. However, numerous studies have proven that there
is no link between autism and immunizations.
A vitamin A deficiency is also a risk factor
for measles. Children with too little vitamin A in their diets have a higher
risk of catching the virus.
Your doctor can confirm measles by examining your
skin rash and checking for symptoms that are characteristic of the disease,
such as white spots in the mouth, fever, cough, and sore throat.
If they are unable to confirm a diagnosis
based on observation, your doctor may order a blood test to check for the
How to treat measles
There is no prescription medication to treat
measles. The virus and symptoms typically disappear within two to three weeks.
However, your doctor may recommend:
- acetaminophen to relieve fever
and muscle aches
- rest to help boost your immune
- plenty of fluids (six to eight
glasses of water a day)
- humidifier to ease a cough and
- vitamin A supplements
Complications associated with measles
It is important to receive a measles vaccine
because measles can lead to life-threatening complications, such as pneumonia
and inflammation of the brain (encephalitis).
Other complications associated with measles
- ear infection
- miscarriage or preterm labor
- decrease in blood platelets
- severe diarrhea
Measles has a low death rate in healthy
children and adults, and most people who contract the measles virus recover
fully. The risk of complications is higher in children and adults with a weak
You cannot get measles more than once. After
you’ve had the virus, you are immune for life.
How to prevent measles
Immunizations can help prevent a measles
outbreak. The MMR vaccine is a three-in-one vaccination that 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 traveling internationally, and their
second dose between the ages of 4 and 6. Adults who have never received an
immunization can request the vaccine from their doctor.
If you or a family member contracts the
measles virus, limit interaction with others. This includes staying home from
school or work and avoiding social activities.