What is Measles?

Measles is a highly contagious virus that primarily infects children, but which can also spread to and from adults. It is easily controlled through vaccination. It is characterized by fever, rash and conjunctivitis.

Since it is easily spread through the air when an infected individual coughs or sneezes, it’s hard to control without immunization. It is most dangerous for children under 5 and adults over 20, groups in which complications can be life-threatening. Additionally, the virus can also spread through utensils, cups, tissues and napkins and other objects that were exposed to infected fluids such as mucus or saliva.

What are the Symptoms of Measles?

In the first stages, measles can mimic a cold or the flu. Early symptoms are a cough, fever, runny nose, and diarrhea. The eyes slowly turn red as with conjunctivitis, then red spots show up in the back of the mouth.

Finally, a distinct red rash spreads over the skin about one to two weeks after your initial exposure to the virus. The first symptoms start four to five days before the rash shows up, at which point the patient is usually fatigued and bedridden.

Measles Causes

Measles is a disease that is caused by a viral infection. The rubeola virus is highly contagious, and is easily spread from one person to another. The rubeola virus thrives in the patient’s throat and nose, living in the mucus. When an infected person comes into contact with other people, this can cause infection. When an infected patient sneezes or coughs, this can cause the infected mucus to be expelled from the body and cause the disease to be spread to others. The mucus of an infected person can also spread measles by contaminating surfaces. When patients rub their eyes or nose, or lick their fingers, the items that they touch will carry the virus. Those items remain contaminated for two hours, making it possible for others to touch them and become infected. Once the rubeola virus infects someone, it starts to multiply in the lungs, the threat and the lymphatic system. Eventually, it will begin to infect the blood vessels, eyes, central nervous system and the urinary tract. After one to three weeks, it becomes established in the body.

How is Measles Treated?

Even with treatment, a measles infection can cause brain swelling known as encephalitis. This may lead to permanent damage, seizures, or death. Miscarriages, death due to pneumonia, and deafness due to severe ear infections are also potential complications. That is the main reason why it is vital to vaccinate children against measles.

There is no cure or specific treatment for measles. The virus must go through its natural course and you can only support the patient’s health while waiting it out. Taking Vitamin A can decrease the chances of complications, but some side effects can’t be prevented no matter what treatment is used. It’s far better to avoid measles in the first place.

Measles Prevention

In many countries, measles is close to being eradicated. The vaccine for this virus is highly effective, and measles generally comes from people who were not vaccinated. The best prevention is to get the vaccination, and any required boosters, early in life. For those who are not able to get the vaccination for medical reasons, herd immunity, the immunity created by everyone around them being vaccinated, is usually enough to keep the disease at bay. However recent outbreaks have made it necessary for those who can’t be vaccinated to avoid areas where there have been infected populations. If there have been cases nearby, an unvaccinated person should avoid coming into contact with anything that could have been touched by infected people. Wash hands frequently and avoid touching the eyes, nose and mouth to prevent possible infection.