Measles, also rubeola, is different from German measles. It is more chronic and has a higher death rate. The symptoms of rubeola are preventable and manageable and you can go through the following steps to be treated.
Measles is an infection common in children caused by a virus. The disease follows a high fatality rate if not prevented or treated on time.
Although the mortality rate of the disease that has been curbed due to the introduction of vaccines, there is still a record of more than 100,000 deaths a year worldwide, most of which are children. This shows the severity of this disease if not combated intensely.
Underdeveloped and developing countries, especially in Africa, are the countries which experience a higher infection rate by the virus. And so, it is advised that people in measles-prone areas should be vaccinated and alert to any possible infection so as to treat it on time.
Modes of Transmission
Measles is airborne, that is, it is transmitted easily through the air. It can spread from one person to another through:
- Droplets from sneezes and coughs.
- Mucous discharge from nose and throat.
- Saliva through kissing or shared objects, e.g, bottles, spoons, cups, etc.
- Direct skin-skin contact/touch.
- Contact with materials used by the infected, e.g, clothes, beddings, handkerchiefs, chairs, etc.
- From an infected pregnant woman to her unborn child.
The virus can stay on a surface for up to 2 hours before it dies. If you have not been vaccinated against the infection and come in contact with the virus by any means, there is a 90% chance that you will be infected.
Who is Susceptible to Measles?
Exposure to the virus can cause transmission. However, you have a higher chance of being infected if exposed, due to certain factors. They include:
- If you have not been immunized against the disease.
- If you had immunoglobulin at the time you were vaccinated against the virus.
- Lack of vitamin A.
- If you travel to an underdeveloped or developed country where measles is widespread.
- An immunodeficiency as a result of another health condition, such as AIDS.
If measles is not treated on time and left to keep accumulating, it can lead to severe health complications which can in turn lead to death, especially in little children and people with very low immunity systems.
The complications that may arise include:
- Fatal ear infections; bacterial infections in the middle ear that can lead to deafness.
- Pneumonia; especially in patients with immunodeficiency.
- Bronchitis; Inflammation of the inner wall linings of the air passageways of the bronchial tubes/lungs.
- Laryngitis; inflammation of the voice box/larynx, which can lead to voice loss.
- Vision loss/blindness, as a result of vitamin A deficiency and measles infection.
- Encephalitis; acute inflammation and swelling of the brain. It is rare, but can cause death to any patient who develops it.
- Subacute Sclerosing Panencephalitis (SSPE); chronic inflammation and degeneration of the brain and spinal cord. Caused by a chronic infection in the Central Nervous System together with measles infection. It is an extremely rare condition, however, it is without treatment and can lead to seizures, brain death, and finally death.
Measles and Pregnancy
Measles is easily transmitted from an infected pregnant woman to her unborn child. However, you should never take a measles vaccine once you are pregnant because it can affect your child. Instead, take immunoglobulin to reduce the effect of the symptoms, or prevent it entirely.
For a pregnant woman who has contacted measles, if not taken care of, it can result to the following complications:
- Premature birth
- Low birth weight
- Pregnancy loss
- Still birth
- Maternal death.
If you wish to get pregnant, if not vaccinated against the virus yet, do so and make sure it is over 4 weeks before you become pregnant. Your immunity against the virus can keep your child immune to it until he can get his vaccine at 6 to 15 months.
If you have had measles and have recovered from it before, it is very unlikely for you to contact it again, because your body has built immunity against the virus. However, prevention against the disease is possible. Do well to take note the following:
If there is someone who is infected with the virus, it is best that you stay as far away from the person as possible, especially when you are not immunized. Avoid any mode of transmission from the infected. Wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your face.
If you have been exposed to the virus,—pregnant or not—it is best you take this preventive injection within 6 days. It boosts immune systems, especially for those with immunodeficiency, and might help prevent the disease from surfacing.
The Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) vaccine, or the Measles, Mumps, Rubella, and Varicella (MMRV) vaccine has reduced the rate at which people get infected to the minimum.
You should consider measles vaccination if:
- You have been exposed to the virus. Take it within 72 hours.
- You have never had a vaccine before especially as a child.
- You were born and/or received the Killed Measles Vaccine between 1963 to 1967. This vaccine is the older ineffective vaccine which is sensitive, but does not prevent the patient from future re-infection.
- You have no proof of immunity. Here, you should consult a doctor before considering it.
Vaccine will be given to you in 2 doses, 4 weeks apart.
However, you cannot get a vaccine, if:
- You are allergic to any of the ingredients used to create the vaccine.
- You have a weakened immune system. Could be as a result of family traits, cancer, tuberculosis, leukemia, HIV/AIDS, etc.
- You have had a recent blood transfusion; wait after 4 weeks to have a vaccine, or get the transfusion 4 weeks after the vaccine.
- You have recently had another vaccine; wait after 4 weeks to have a measles vaccine, or get the vaccine after 4 weeks after getting a measles vaccine.
- You have a severe critical sickness; wait until you are treated to have the vaccine.
- You are pregnant, or suspicious of being pregnant. Get a pregnancy test before getting a vaccine. If you are immunized, avoid getting pregnant for 4 to 5 weeks
If you can get immunized due to the above reasons, take the following safety measures:
- Stay away from people that are infected.
- Cover up all your wounds.
- Wash your hands frequently.
- Do not share materials, utensils, etc.
- Keep your hands away from your face.
Your newborn child is likely to have immunity if you were immunized before he was conceived. So it is advisable that if you have never been immunized and you want to conceive, make sure to get the vaccine before you take in. Ensure that you get vaccinated above 4 weeks before you get pregnant.
For your child, MMR/MMRV vaccines are given in two doses:
- 6 to 15 months after birth. However, it is given as early as possible if you want to travel outside the country, especially to measles prone countries, or if there’s an outbreak of measles in the area.
- 4 to 6 years.
Measles have no specific cure because the virus can not be killed. However, the symptoms take 2-3 weeks till it fades off and you can recover.
It is advisable that during that period, you should isolate yourself, and follow certain steps to manage symptoms and prevent possible complications. These steps, which pertain to you or you child, include:
- Taking immunoglobulin injections once you notice that you or your child—as the case may be—are exposed to the virus. This protein serum is given as injections, within 6 days of exposure and can either prevent the infection or make the symptoms more bearable.
- Take vitamin A on doctor’s recommendation to lessen the severity of the symptoms.
- Be on constant bed rest.
- Make sure to take a lot of fluids, especially water to keep you hydrated.
- Take your bath regularly, with lukewarm or cold water to keep your body cool and lessen the fever.
- To ease breathing and curtail harsh coughs, use a humidifier, air place a wet towel over your face to keep the air moist. Also, take warm lemon and honey drinks. However, abstain from giving your child honey if he is not more than 1 year.
- Keep the room well ventilated.
- To manage the crustiness and watery state of your eyes, always clean your eyes with water soaked cotton will. In order not to stress your eyes, dim the lights or wear sunglasses.
- For body aches, pains and fever, as an adult, you can take Tylenol, Ibuprofen, and relievers with aspirin. However, for your child who is under 16, avoid drugs with aspirin; Ibuprofen, Naproxen, Acetaminophen, are better options.
When To Call A Doctor
Avoid self-medication and a guess diagnosis, call the doctor once you’ve started noticing signs of measles, or have been exposed to the virus. The doctor can run a blood test to ascertain if it is measles and can advise on what to do.
Specially involve a doctor on infection, if:
- It involves a child.
- You have an immunodeficiency.
- You have a case of cancer.
- You have a case of tuberculosis.
- You have started experiencing difficulty in breathing.
- You notice complications ,such as pneumonia, are beginning to develop.
When you have contacted the virus, the signs do not start showing immediately. The virus stays in the areas of habitat and begins to incubate and multiply. When they are fully incubated, they are carried through the bloodstream and the first signs begin to show. This takes 7-14 days according to your immune system.
When signs start showing, they come in phases. They emerge in the following sequence:
7-14 days after exposure to virus:
- High fever begins.
- Throat becomes sore.
- You begin to cough.
- Nose begins to run.
- Your eyes turn red, watery and itchy.
- Body aches.
1-2 days after first symptoms begin:
Tiny white spots, called Koplik spots, appear within the mouth, making it uncomfortable for you to eat or taste any food, which can lead to loss in appetite.
2-5 days after first signs occur:
- Measles rash breaks out first as flat red spots, starting from the face and spreading out to the neck and downwards until they get to the feet.
- Then small whitish raised spots, with a tendency to burst and spill out fluid, appear on the flat red rash.
The full rashes, both red and white rashes, are the measles or telltale rash and are very irritating, causing you to itch fervently. They also come with a spike in fever, raising your temperature to over 104° Fahrenheit. (40° Celsius)
These symptoms end 2-3 weeks after they begin, if well taken care of and given appropriate treatments.
Measles is caused by a virus called the ‘morbillivirus’, which resides and multiplies in the nose, throat, and lungs linings. This virus is usually prevalent during cold and misty seasons.
1. Are there different types of measles?
Measles may be thought to be of two types. However, the measles which can also be called Rubeola, is very different from German measles also called Rubella. They are caused by different viruses and Rubeola is more chronic and deadly than Rubella.
2. Is measles contagious?
Yes, it is. It is an airborne disease rapidly passed around by an infected person to a person who has no immunity against it because he has not been vaccinated, orhas never had the disease before. The virus spreads through droplets from sneezes and coughs, physical contact, saliva, material used by infected people, etc.
3. Is measles deadly?
The World Health Organization(WHO) estimated that over 100,000 people in the world, especially children under 5 and people with low immunity to disease, die every year from measles.
Measles become deadly if the complications are noticed and not taken care of on time. If you begin to notice an inflammation in your brain which involves severe headaches and swelling, chronic difficulty in breathing, and all other symptoms of measles complications, rush to see your doctor for treatments.
Also, make sure to take preventive measures against the virus, especially by getting vaccinated.
4. How is measles diagnosed?
The early stage of measles infection is similar to that of any other diseases, so knowing that it is measles in the first 1-2 days may appear difficult. Also, the first red rashes can be identified with other infections.
So in order to identify it, especially when you are in a measles prone area, is to see a doctor. The doctor can examine the symptoms and come to a conclusion, and in a case of uncertainty, run a blood test.
You are advised to go to a doctor and run a blood test to check the presence of the virus if you have come in any means of contact with an infected in order to prevent it on time.
To figure out whether you have measles, your doctor will first look closely at your rash. They’ll also look for the small white Koplik spots inside your mouth. Sometimes, to confirm it, they can also do a blood test.
5. What is the recovery rate of measles?
You take 2 to 3weeks to fully recover from the disease. However, to achieve that as fast as possible, you should take enough rest, avoid any activities and stay hydrated.