The occurrence of measles in any community can cause lasting destruction of lives because it is highly infectious. It is also known as rubeola and it is contagious to both adults and children. Measles in children can be deadly if proper attention is not given to it. Despite vaccination in the world today, the disease kills more than 90,000 people every year, most are age five and below. Death occurs mostly in people who were not vaccinated or ignorant of the killer disease.
Measles symptoms and signs occur around two weeks after exposure to a virus. Typically, the signs and symptoms of measles are:
- A Sore Throat
- Skin Rash
- A dry Cough
- Inflamed Eyes (Conjunctivitis)
- Running Nose
- Koplik’s Spot
The sequential stage of the infection is as follows:
1. The virus of the measles incubates within the first ten to fourteen days of infection. During this period, you do not have any signs or symptoms of measles.
2. Measles starts with a relatively mild illness of moderate fever, which is accompanied by a continuously running nose, cough, inflamed eyes, and sore throat. All these symptoms last only two to three days.
3. The rash is identified by a slightly raised small red spots. The skin also develops a splotchy red appearance from the bumps and spots in the tight clusters, making the face to break out first. A few days later, the rash spreads down the trunk and arms, then to the thighs, legs, and feet. Concurrently, the level of the fever rises to a peak level of 104 – 105.8F (40 – 41C). The measles rash begins to fade gradually from the face, then to the thighs and feet.
4. The measles virus can be spread from a carrier to other people for about eight days. The spreading period is four days before the rash appears and four days when the rash is visible.
Measles, being a highly contagious illness can spread very fast through a single person who is also infected with the virus. When someone with measles sneezes, coughs or talks, droplets that are infected sprays into the air that is inhaled by others. Also, when infected droplets drop on any surface, they will remain active and contagious for many hours. When you touch the infected surface with your hand, then you will contract the virus when you put such fingers in your nose, mouth, or rubbing your face. Infection occurs in about 90% of susceptible people after exposure to someone with the virus.
Complications of measles can be:
1. Pneumonia: This is very common among children and adults. People who have a compromised immune system may develop a dangerous type of pneumonia and is often deadly.
2. Ear Infection: A bacteria of ear infection is one of the most common measles complications.
3. Encephalitis: This is a measles’ complication developed by about one in a thousand people. Encephalitis sometimes occurs immediately after measles or sometimes after a few months later.
4. Pregnancy Problem: Pregnant women must take necessary measures to avoid being infected with the measles virus because it can lead to preterm labor, low birth weight, and maternal death.
5. Laryngitis, Bronchitis, or Croup: Measles is capable of causing inflammation of the larynx (known as the voice box). It can also cause the inflammation of the inner walls of the lungs’ main air passageways (known as the bronchial tubes).
To protect family and friends from getting infected by a household member who already has measles, the following preventive measures must be taken:
1. Separation: People with measles should be kept aside for four days before to four days after the breakout of rash. During this period, it is highly recommended that infected people don’t go into activities with other people. Non-immunized people should also be kept away from an infected person.
2. Vaccination: Ensure that anyone who is exposed to measles takes the vaccine as quickly as possible, starting with infants who are above six months of age.
Based on the type of symptoms; rash or Koplik’s spot (small bluish-white spot on a bright red background, inside the lining of the check), doctors can easily diagnose measles. Although, doctors who have not seen measles and rash before can liken them to other illnesses. A blood test can confirm if the rash is measles.
When an illness is diagnosed, we rely solely on the treatment, but the case is contrary to measles. This is because there’s no particular treatment for confirmed measles infection. Nevertheless, there are working measures that can be taken for the protection of vulnerable individuals that have been exposed to the contagious virus.
1. Post-Exposure Vaccination: To protect non-immunized people (infants inclusive) against the disease, they can receive the vaccination within 72 hours of exposure to the virus. Peradventure measles develops after the vaccination, the symptom is not severe and lasts only a shorter time.
2. Immune Serum Globulin: This is an injection of proteins (antibodies) necessary for people that have a weakened immune system after exposure to the virus. The antibodies injection must be given within six days of their exposure to the virus to prevent measles or to make symptoms less severe.
1. Antibiotics: An antibiotic may be prescribed if a person with measles virus develop a bacterial infection such as ear infection or pneumonia.
2. Vitamin A: A severe case of measles if mostly found with children that have a low level of vitamin A. Intake of vitamin A may greatly reduce the severity of the measles. Children above a year take a dose of 200,000 International Unit (UI).
3. Fever Relievers: To relieve the fever that comes up with measles, you can consider taking over-the-counter medications. These include naproxen (Aleve, etc), ibuprofen (Children’s Motrin, Advil, etc), or acetaminophen (Tylenol, etc). Do not give aspirin to children and teenagers who have measles symptoms because it is linked to Reye’s syndrome. Reye’s syndrome, though rare a condition that is potentially life-threatening.