Measles is a very contagious (easily spread) illness caused by a virus. The infection is spread by contact with droplets from the nose, mouth, or throat of an infected person. Sneezing and coughing can put contaminated droplets into the air. Those who have had an active measles infection or who have been vaccinated against the measles have immunity to the disease. Measles, also called Rubeola. Measles is caused by a virus in the paramyxovirus family. The Measles virus normally grows in the cells that line the back of the throat and lungs. Measles is a human disease and is not known to occur in animals. It remains one of the leading causes of death among young children globally.
Causes of Measles
Measles is a respiratory disease caused by a virus. The disease of measles and the virus that causes it share the same name. Measles Virus normally grows in the cells that line the back of the throat and lungs. Remember that Rubella and Rubeola are different viruses. Rubeola virus is one of the most contagious viruses known to man. As a result, it can spread rapidly in a susceptible population. Infected people carry the virus in their respiratory tract before they get sick, so they can spread the disease without being aware of it.
Signs and Symptoms of Measles
The first sign of measles is usually a high fever, which begins about 10 to 12 days after exposure to the virus, and lasts four to seven days. A runny nose, a cough, red and watery eyes, and small white spots inside the cheeks can develop in the initial stage. After several days, a rash erupts, usually on the face and upper neck. Over about three days, the rash spreads, eventually reaching the hands and feet. The rash lasts for five to six days, and then fades. On average, the rash occurs 14 days after exposure to the virus (within a range of seven to 18 days).
Risk Factors for Measles
Un-vaccinated young children are at highest risk of measles and its complications, including death. Any non-immune person (who has not been vaccinated or was vaccinated but did not develop immunity) can become infected.
Treatment of Measles
There is no specific medical treatment for measles. To help manage symptoms, which usually last for about 2 weeks, give your child plenty of fluids and encourage extra rest. If fever is making your child uncomfortable, you may want to give a non-aspirin fever medication such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Remember, you should never give aspirin to a child who has a viral illness since the use of aspirin in such cases has been associated with the development of Reye Syndrome.
Kids with measles should be closely watched. In some cases, measles can lead to other complications, such as otitis media, croup, diarrhea, pneumonia, and encephalitis (a serious brain infection), which may require antibiotics or hospitalization. Vitamin A has been found to decrease complications and death associated with measles infections.
Prevention from Measles
Routine immunization is highly effective for preventing measles. People who are not immunized, or who have not received the full immunization are at high risk for catching the disease. Taking serum immune globulin 6 days after being exposed to the virus can reduce the risk of developing measles, or can make the disease less severe. The measles vaccine is often incorporated with rubella and/or mumps vaccines in countries where these illnesses are problems. It is equally effective in the single or combined form.
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