What is measles?
Measles is a highly contagious disease triggered by a virus which occurs worldwide. A measles infection is not a harmless childhood disease , because complications occur in about one in ten victims. In 2000, the United States declared that measles was eliminated from this country. The United States was able to eliminate measles because it has a highly effective measles vaccine, a strong vaccination program that achieves high vaccine coverage in children and a strong public health system for detecting and responding to measles cases and outbreaks.
How is measles transmitted?
From human to human
Measles virus is transmitted solely from person to person. Almost every contact between a person and an unprotected patient leads to infection, even from a few yards away. When you cough, sneeze or talk, the pathogens can spread in small saliva droplets through the air which are then inhaled.
What are the symptoms ?
At the beginning of the measles disease these symptoms such as high fever, cough and runny nose and inflammation in the nose and throat, and eye conjunctiva show. Only after a few days, the typical skin rash that begins on the face and behind the ears and then spreads over the body forms. The rash goes hand in hand with a renewed increase in fever and disappears after 3 to 4 days by itself. This can lead to a scaling of the skin.
Measles temporarily weaken the immune system, so that other infectious agents which are opportunistic can take hold. Thus,complications arise that are often caused by additional pathogens, such as ear infections, respiratory or lung inflammation. A particularly feared complication of measles disease is the inflammation of the brain. It occurs in about one in 1,000 cases of measles. 10% to 20% of patients die from it. At 20% to 30%, serious damage such as mental retardation or paralysis remain.
Very rarely does this occur, but several years after a patient has experienced the measles there is a so-called development of SSPE, subacute sclerosing panencephalitis. The SSPE is a progressive inflammatory disease of the brain and nervous system and is always fatal. Particularly affected are children who are ill with measles in the first year of life.
When does the disease break out and how long are you contagious?
The first symptoms occur about 8 to 10 days after infection. It usually takes 2 weeks until the outbreak of a rash. Sufferers are contagious for about 5 days before the rash is visible. After the rash occurs it is still contagious for 4 days. Those who have survived a measles disease acquire life-long protection against reinfection.
Who are most at risk?
Anyone can fall ill from measles, who has not yet had the infection or is not adequately protected by a full vaccination. Particularly at risk are infants who are too young to be vaccinated, and more and more teenagers and young adults, in which one or even both vaccinations during childhood have been missed. People with a weakened immune system, who can not be vaccinated against measles itself, infants and adults also have a higher risk of developing complications from the measles disease.
What should I consider when sick with the Measles.?
- Sufferers should be isolated and get plenty of bed rest in the acute phase of illness .
- Caregivers should be vigilant in suspected cases of measles infection, so they can take appropriate protective measures before visiting the doctor's office.
- You or your child may also take over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others) or naproxen (Aleve) to help relieve the fever that accompanies measles.
- Antibiotics are ineffective in diseases that are caused by viruses. They may be used optionally if additional complications occur caused by bacteria .
- A person with measles should stay home from school or work while they are contagious. Special care should be taken to avoid contact with babies younger than 12–15 months (they are too young to have been vaccinated) and pregnant women.
How can I protect myself?
If someone in your household has measles, take these precautions to protect vulnerable family and friends:
- Isolation. Because measles is highly contagious from about four days before to four days after the rash breaks out, people with measles shouldn't return to activities in which they interact with other people during this period.It may also be necessary to keep nonimmunized people — siblings, for example — away from the infected person.
- Vaccinate. Be sure that anyone who's at risk of getting the measles who hasn't been fully vaccinated receives the measles vaccine as soon as possible. This includes anyone born after 1957 who hasn't been vaccinated, as well as infants older than 6 months.
Preventing new infections
If you've already had measles, your body has built up its immune system to fight the infection, and you can't get measles again. Most people born or living in the United States before 1957 are immune to measles, simply because they've already had it.
For everyone else, there's the measles vaccine, which is important for:
- Promoting and preserving herd immunity. Since the introduction of the measles vaccine, measles has virtually been eliminated in the United States, even though not everyone has been vaccinated. This effect is called herd immunity.But herd immunity may now be weakening a bit. The rate of measles in the U.S. recently tripled.
- Preventing a resurgence of measles. Soon after vaccination rates decline, measles begins to come back. In 1998, a now-discredited study was published erroneously linking autism to the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine.In the United Kingdom, where the study originated, the rate of vaccination dropped to an all-time low of just under 80 percent of all children in 2002. Between 2012 and 2013, more than 1,200 children in the U.K. contracted measles, up from 380 children in 2010.