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Measles awareness in 5 minutes

Also called Rubeola


Measles can be defined as an infectious viral disease causing fever and a red rash, typically occurring in childhood. In Dutch language "masal" means "blemish". In Middle English it was "meseles", that ultimately became "measles".

We commonly hear about two types of measles, one is the Rubella or German measles which is a simpler disease that lasts for just three days called as "3-day measles" and the second one is the regular Measles, also known as morbilli, rubeola, or red measles which is a highly contagious infection caused by the measles virus. Out of these two types of measles, the rubella, though considered to be a milder disease can cause significant birth defects if an infected pregnant woman passes the virus to her unborn child. Rubeola, on the other hand can become a serious illness lasting for several days, say 7-10 days and can cause other serious complications like pneumonia, diarrhea, brain inflammation, etc.

Measles is a viral infection of the respiratory system. It is a very contagious disease that can very easily spread through contact with infected mucus and saliva. The coughing or sneezing of an infected person can release the virus into the air. The virus lives on surfaces for several hours. As the infected particles enter the air and settle on surfaces, anyone coming into close contact to it can become infected with the measles virus. Using an infected person’s glass for drinking or sharing eating utensils with an infected person increases the risk of infection.

Generally, symptoms of measles appear within 14 days of exposure to the virus. One may experience cough, fever, red eyes, light sensitivity, muscle aches, runny nose, sore throat, and white spots inside the mouth. A widespread skin rash is a classic sign of measles. This rash can last up to 7 days and generally appears within the first 3-5 days of exposure to the virus. A measles rash commonly develops at the head and slowly spreads to other parts of the body. Measles rash may include red, itchy bumps.

Measles is a leading cause of death in children. Of the 139,300 global deaths related to measles in 2010, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports that most of the victims were under the age of 5.

Measles is highly contagious in a community and the spread stops when susceptible hosts are not there. Most of the measles victims survive except a small 0.1-0.2% and the percentage may go up to 10-20% in communities subjected to high malnutrition, compromised immunity levels, and insufficient healthcare facilities. Vitamin A deficiency is also a reason for catching the infection.

Detection of measles-specific IgM antibody and measles RNA are the most common lab methods for confirming measles infection. Healthcare providers do obtain both throat swab/nasopharyngeal swab as well as serum sample.

The number of people contracting the measles virus has come down greatly in the past decades due to immunizations. Anyone coming into contact with an infected person can prevent infection by getting a measles vaccine within 72 hours. Also, a dose of immunoglobulin taken within 6 days of contact with an infected person will give some protection or can change the clinical course of the infection.

Once infected, a simple acetaminophen can be given to relieve fever and muscle aches. Ample rest will boost the immune system. Vitamin A supplements will help. Using a humidifier will ease the cough and sore throat. Plenty of fluids need to given to the infected (6-8 glasses of water per day).

Vaccination recommended for measles for children is one dose of MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) combined vaccine, which is approximately 93% effective at preventing measles; two doses are approximately 97% effective. Almost everyone who do not respond to the measles component of the first dose of MMR vaccine at age 12 months or older will respond to the second dose. Similarly, adults, post-high school children, and healthcare professionals who do not have evidence of immunity (previous vaccination or previous measles history) are advised vaccination. International travelers need to get vaccinated.

Is it not prudent to prevent measles rather than treating it?

Watch the Video: Measles Explained

"We've had enough of talkers. It's time for a doer" - Bobby Jindal



"We've had enough of talkers. It's time for a doer. I'm not running for president to be somebody. I'm running for president to do something."

- Bobby Jindal, the country's first elected Indian-American Louisiana governor, said in Kenner, La., when, he joined the huge GOP field in June.

Disclaimer: The above content is provided for information and awareness purpose only. It is not prescriptive or suggestive or meant to replaces your qualified physician's advice or consultation.