A leading cause for death in children, measles has claimed the lives of around 1, 34, 200 children globally in 2016, according to a World Health Organization (WHO) report. Most victims were under the age of five and from South-East Asia, with India being one of the countries with the most reported incidents of measles in children.
What is Measles?
Measles, medically called rubeola, is a viral infection in the respiratory system. It is a highly contagious disease, particularly since the virus can thrive on surfaces for many hours. An infected person can also pass on the infection to others through the air when they sneeze or cough.
Prevention is always better than cure. If you or your child have not been vaccinated for measles and come in contact with an infected person, it’s best to consult a doctor at the earliest to get on a preventive course.
Measles Symptoms to Look Out For
Symptoms of measles can surface anytime within two weeks of exposure to the virus. These symptoms can include:
- Widespread, red skin rash (chief symptom)
- Muscle aches
- Sore throat
- Runny nose
- White spots in the mouth
- Red eyes and light sensitivity
A typical measles rash appears as red, itchy spots, first on the head and then spreads to other parts of the body. The rash usually appears within 3 – 5 days of exposure to the virus and can last up to seven days.
Measles Risk Factors
Who is at risk for contracting measles? Here’s a rundown of the common risk factors:
- Children and adults not immunized against the virus. Vaccination is the way to go, but if you’ve had measles before, you are not likely to contract the virus again.
- Drinking or eating from the utensils used by an infected person.
- Traveling to countries where the prevalence of measles is high.
- Vitamin A deficiency has been linked with the tendency to contract the virus more easily and to experiencing severe symptoms.
A doctor can pronounce a diagnosis of measles based on your external symptoms, or in case of unclear symptoms, based on a blood test. While vaccination can prevent contracting the disease, there is no set course of medication that can help treat the condition once infected. The virus and symptoms typically disappear within two to three weeks. However, your doctor may recommend medication to treat or relieve:
- Fever and muscle ache
- Poor immunity
- Vitamin A deficiency
Importance of Measles Prevention and Immunization
Measles can lead to life-threatening conditions such as pneumonia and encephalitis (inflammation of the brain). There are several other complications that could arise too, such as:
- Miscarriage or preterm birth in case of pregnant women
- Decrease in blood platelets
- Ear infection
- Severe diarrhea
You can avoid these health risks for you and your child by simply ensuring timely vaccinations!