Measles is a childhood infection caused by a virus. Once quite common, measles can now almost be prevented with a vaccine. Signs and symptoms of measles include cough, runny nose, inflamed eyes, sore throat, fever, and a red, blotchy skin rash.
Also called RUBEOLA, measles can be serious and even fatal for small children. While death rates have been falling worldwide as more children receive the measles vaccine, the disease still kills more than 10,000 people a year, most under the age of 5.
The cause of measles is a virus that replicates in the nose and throat of an infected child or adult.
When someone with measles coughs, sneezes or talks, infected droplets spray into the air, where other people can inhale them. The infected droplets may also land on a surface, where they remain active and contagious for several hours.
You can contract the virus by putting your fingers in your mouth or nose, or rubbing your eyes after touching the infected surface.
Measles signs and symptoms appear 10 to 14 days after exposure to the virus. Signs and symptoms of measles typically include:
- Dry cough
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
- Inflamed eyes( conjunctivitis)
- Tiny white spots with bluish-white centres on a red background found inside the mouth on the inner lining of the cheek.
- A skin rash made up of large, flat blotches that often flow into one another.
The infection occurs in sequential stages over a period of two to three weeks.
- INFECTION AND INCUBATION: For the first 10-14 days after you are infected, the measles virus incubates. You have no signs or symptoms of measles during this time.
- NON SPECIFIC SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS: Measles typically begins with a mild to moderate fever, often accompanied by a persistent cough or runny nose, inflamed eyes (conjunctivitis) and sore throat. This relatively mild illness may last two to three days.
- ACUTE ILLNESS AND RASH: The rash consists of small red spots, some of which are slightly raised. Spots and bumps in tight clusters give the skin a splotchy red appearance. The face breaks out first, particularly behind the ears and along the hairline. Over the next few days, the rash spreads down the arms and the trunk, then over the thighs, lower legs and feet. At the same time, fever rises sharply, often as high as 104 to105.8F (40 to 41C). The measles rash gradually recedes, fading first from the face and last from the thighs and feet.
- COMMUNICABLE PERIOD: A person with measles can spread the virus to others for about 8 days, starting four days before the rash appears and ending when the rash has been present for four days.
- FEVER REDUCERS: An infected person may take over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen or naproxen to help relieve the fever that accompanies measles. Use caution when giving aspirin to children or teenagers. Though aspirin is approved for use in children older than 3, children and teenagers recovering from chickenpox or flu like symptoms should never take aspirin. This is because aspirin has been linked to REYES SYNDROME, a rare but potentially life threatening condition in such children.
- ANTIBIOTICS: If a bacterial infection, such as pneumonia or an ear infection, develops while a person has measles, your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic.
- VITAMIN A: People with low levels of vitamin A are more likely to have a severe case of measles. Giving vitamin A may lessen the severity of the measles. It is generally given as a large dose of 200,000 international units (IU) for two days.