Measles, or rubeola, is a highly contagious infectious disease caused by measles virus. It still remains a significant cause of death worldwide, despite the availability of a safe, effective vaccine.
The measles virus infects the respiratory tract first. However, it eventually spreads to other parts of the body through the bloodstream, with flu symptoms and a widespread skin rash – the classic sign of measles. This rash can last up to 7 days and generally appears within 14 days of exposure to the virus.
There’s no specific treatment for measles. The virus and symptoms typically disappear in about two or three weeks, unless there are complications. APPOTEK can help you with measles.
Measles is caused by a virus in the paramyxovirus family and it is normally passed through direct contact and through the air. The virus infects the respiratory tract, then spreads throughout the body. Measles is a human disease and is not known to occur in animals.
Measles is the most contagious transmissible virus known. It remains infective for up to two hours in that airspace or nearby surfaces. Measles is so contagious that if one person has it, 90% of nearby non-immune people will also become infected.
Before the introduction of the measles vaccine in 1963 and widespread vaccination, major epidemics occurred approximately every 2–3 years and measles caused an estimated 2.6 million deaths each year. Now the disease is rare because all children are offered vaccination against 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 4 to 7 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 3 days, the rash spreads, eventually reaching the hands and feet. The rash lasts for 5 to 6 days, and then fades. On average, the rash occurs 14 days after exposure to the virus (within a range of 7 to 18 days).
You can spread the measles right after you become infected yourself. This means that you are spreading measles even before you have symptoms and know that you are ill. The infection risk ceases about five days after you have recovered.
Measles can cause secondary infections such as:
- ear inflammation
Therefore, pay attention if your child becomes ill again after the measles has passed.
Serious complications are more common in children under the age of 5, or adults over the age of 30. The most serious complications include blindness, encephalitis (an infection that causes brain swelling), severe diarrhoea and related dehydration, ear infections, or severe respiratory infections such as pneumonia. Severe measles is more likely among poorly nourished young children, especially those with insufficient vitamin A, or whose immune systems have been weakened by HIV/AIDS or other diseases.
Prevention and protection
It is recommended that children be immunized against measles at 12 months, generally as part of a three-part MMR vaccine (measles, mumps, and rubella). The vaccine is generally not given before this age because infants respond inadequately to the vaccine due to an immature immune system. A second dose of the vaccine is usually given to children between the ages of four and five, to increase rates of immunity.
In the case of high fever, there are non-prescription fever-reducing medicines in pharmacies. Also, be sure to drink plenty of fluid to prevent dehydration.
There’s no specific treatment for measles. Medications are generally aimed at treating superinfections, maintaining good hydration with adequate fluids, and pain relief. The diagnosis of measles is made after examination and sampling. The virus and symptoms typically disappear in about two or three weeks.
There are some interventions available for people who may have been exposed to the virus. These can help prevent an infection or lessen its severity. They include:
- a measles vaccine, given within 72 hours of exposure
- a dose of immune proteins called immunoglobulin, taken within six days of exposure
When to consult a doctor
If you think you or someone in your family has measles, you should contact a doctor. Because the disease is very contagious, you should call your health centre before visiting. People with measles should not sit in a waiting room with other people. You can contact APPOTEK and speak to one of their doctors via video consultation.
How APPOTEK can help
You can contact APPOTEK for help with measles. A doctor or nurse will make an initial diagnosis during the video consultation. They can also give prescriptions or refer you for further examination, if needed.