Measles is an infectious disease that begins in your respiratory system, caused by the Measles morbillivirus virus. Even though the infection is not considered fatal, measles has caused many deaths worldwide. According to the World Health Organization, there were around 110,000 deaths due to measles in 2017 alone. In recent years, cases have also been increasing in the United States.
It is important to note that vaccination is readily available for it. However, some people cannot receive the vaccine due to health complications such as a weakened immune system. As per the WHO statistics for 2018, of the 140,000 people who died due to measles, most were children under the age of five.
This viral disease can even lead to life-threatening complications if not dealt with effectively. Symptoms often appear within seven to fourteen days after exposure, but according to the World Health Organization, they may take up to 23 days.
Some of the measles symptoms include:
- Up to 104 degrees Fahrenheit fever
- A runny nose
- Body aches
- Watery eyes
- White spots inside your mouth
- A red rash (appears after 3-5 days of symptoms)
Starting from the hairline, the rash usually spreads down your body. It begins in the form of red, flat spots and goes on to become small bumps. The spots are also likely to merge once they start spreading.
What Are the Complications?
Some complications that arise due to measles can be severe. They include:
- Loss of vision
- Severe dehydration and diarrhea
- Encephalitis ( a brain swelling infection)
- Respiratory infections such as pneumonia
Complications can get even worse during pregnancy, such as:
- Low birth weight
- Early delivery
- Even miscarriage or loss of pregnancy
The following people may be at high risk:
- Pregnant women
- Adults above 20 years of age
- People with a weak immune system
- Very young children
How Do Measles Symptoms Develop?
The virus usually enters your body through the nose, eyes, or mouth and enters your lungs to infect immune cells. As soon as these cells move close to lymph nodes, the virus quickly transfers to other cells. That’s how they travel through the body and release virus particles into your blood.
Since the blood travels around your body, it carries the virus to your organs such as the liver, central nervous system, spleen, and skin. Once it enters your skin, the virus can cause inflammation in your capillaries, giving rise to rashes.
However, if the measles virus enters your lungs, it can easily transmit to other people. The infection also spreads through:
- Touching an infected surface
- Being around an infected person, especially if they’re sneezing or coughing
- Having physical contact with an infected person
The virus has the potential to stay active for about two hours in the air.
As of now, there is no specific course of treatment for the virus because it’s not sensitive to antibiotics. It can, however, disappear in around three weeks. There are some ways to lessen the measles symptoms once you have been exposed to them, such as:
Getting a measles vaccine within 72 hours of exposure
Getting a dose of immune proteins within six days of exposure
There are also some other ways that your doctor may recommend for recovery, such as:
Consuming plenty of fluids
Boosting your immune system by resting
Taking Vitamin A supplements
Ibuprofen or acetaminophen to bring down your fever
When Should You See a Doctor
It is recommended to visit a doctor if
You have any of the aforementioned symptoms
Your fever rises above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit
You have breathing difficulties or chest pain
There’s cough in your blood
You feel drowsy
You experience a convulsion
Even though a doctor can diagnose measles just by examining the signs and symptoms, they may ask you to go for a blood test for confirmation.
How Can You Prevent Measles
It is by far the best and the most effective way to prevent measles. The two most common vaccines are the MMR and the MMRV.
The MMR vaccine protects you from measles, rubella, and mumps. The MMRV vaccine, on the other hand, protects against measles, rubella, mumps as well as chickenpox.
Children are eligible to receive once they are 12 months old. Some groups that should avoid vaccination are:
People who are immuno-compromised, such as those with HIV or AIDS, those getting chemotherapy
People who previously had a life-threatening reaction to the vaccine
What Are the Side Effects of Vaccination?
Vaccination side effects are mild and often disappear within a few days. Some of the side effects include mild rash and fever. In very few cases, it has been linked to seizures or low platelet count.
Vaccination is not only a way to protect you and your family but also those who cannot be vaccinated. Any disease is less likely to circulate in a population when most individuals are vaccinated. The concept is also known as herd immunity.
Additional Prevention Methods
Vaccination is not something every individual can receive. However, it is possible to prevent measles through the following additional prevention methods.
If you’re someone who’s susceptible to infection, frequent hand washing is necessary.
Avoid touching your face if you have come into contact with an infected person.
Do not share any personal items, especially eating and drinking utensils with a potentially infected person.
Avoid physical contact with anyone who’s sick.
In the end, prevention is better than cure, and a hygienic lifestyle along with timely vaccination is the best way to protect yourself from measles.