Measles is also known as ‘Rubeola’. It is one of the most contagious diseases of childhood. It is caused because of the measles virus. As there are no curative treatments, once a person gets infected, the virus has to let run its course. Meanwhile supportive measures such as hydration & rest are given. A person gets measles only once in a life time. Getting infected once provides lifelong immunity from the disease.
Almost 20 million people get affected by measles every year. The primary burden of the disease is shared by Africa and Asian continents. The deaths occur in mostly children less than 5 years of age. The risk of the death is higher in children who are malnourished.
Mode of transmission:
Measles is one the most contagious airborne infection. 90% of the un infected and unvaccinated people will get it if they come in contact with an infected individual. It spreads through the aerosols released in the air by sneezing or coughing of an infected individual.
The kids may complain of following:
- A fever lasting for 4 days
- Conjunctivitis (red eyes)
- Rashes: the rashes are peculiar. It starts few days after the fever. It starts from the back of the ears and then spreads to the neck and head before covering the whole torso. The rash causes itching.
- Koplik’s spots: they are found specifically in cases of measles 3 to 4 days prior to the rash. The spots are found on the inner side of the cheek in the mouth.
- The rash usually subsides after two or three weeks.
It might lead to complications such as:
- Infection of the ear
- Ulcers in the cornea (eye)
The diagnosis is mainly done with the present clinical symptoms. Laboratory testing of specific antibodies for measles can also help in diagnosis.
Once a person gets infected, there is no specific type of treatment of measles. Most of the patients recover spontaneously with rest and supportive treatments.
- Isolation: the infected individual or kid should be isolated from non-infected people.
- Anti pyretics: medications should be taken to control the fever.
- Lotions: lotions should be used to apply over the rash in order to avoid itching. The itching might leave permanent scars.
- Hydration: drinking plenty of fluid is necessary as there might be diarrhoea which can lead to dehydration.
- Rest: the person should take rest till the fever and rash have subsided.
If any of the above mentioned complications such as diarrhoea and pneumonia are present, then the patient should be hospitalised.
- Measles vaccine: measles is the most common cause of vaccine preventable deaths. In Indian vaccination programmes, all kids should be vaccinated with measles vaccine at 9 months of age.
- MMR vaccine: a combined vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella is also available and can be given to the child in addition to the measles vaccine.
The children should be vaccinated with measles vaccine at an appropriate age.