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Measles is a highly contagious respiratory system disease. It is caused by a viral agent and has no specific treatment. Measles is a childhood infection that can turn serious and fatal in small and weak children.

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Overview of measles

Measles are also called as English measles, mobile and rubella. Do not confuse rubeola with rubella. These are two totally different infections caused by different viruses. Measles is caused by a paramyxovirus of the Morbillivirus genus. It is a single-stranded, negative sense RNA virus. It is very contagious and leads to appearance of full body rash and flu-like symptoms.

As it is a viral infection, no specific treatment is available. The infection is allowed to run its course. In the meantime, the patient is given plenty of rest, fluids and isolated to prevent the spread of infection.

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Symptoms of measles

The main signs and symptoms of measles are as follows:

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The rash is typical of measles. It is maculopapular, erythematous rash. It appears many days before the fever starts. First one spots it behind the back of the ears. In a few hours it begins to spread on the head and neck. Finally it spreads all over the body and causes considerable itching. The color of the rash changes from red to dark brown. After about a week, it disappears.

Cause of measles

Measles is caused by measles virus of the Paramyxoviridae family. It spreads only in humans and has no known animal host. It is a very contagious virus. It can easily spread through coughing and sneezing. Close personal contact as well contact with respiratory secretions can lead to infection.

The virus survives in the nose and throat mucus of the infected patient. The patient becomes highly contagious about 4 days before the rash makes an appearance as well as 4 days after the rash disappears.

Risk Factors for measles

The risk factors that make one vulnerable to infection by measles virus include:

  • Children with poor immune system like ones with leukemia, corticosteroid therapy, HIV, AIDS, etc.
  • Children or adults who travel to regions or countries where measles is common.
  • People who are not vaccinated for measles.
  • Children with vitamin A deficiency
  • Pregnant women
  • Malnutrition in growing children
  • Children who have not reached the age of routine immunization

Complications of measles

Measles can lead to certain complications.

These include:

Other complications include:

Diagnosis of  measles

Diagnosis is based on the physical observation of the symptoms and patient history. The patient has to have fever for at least 3 days. He should also suffer from either cough, coryza or conjunctivitis (the 3 C’s). The appearance of Koplik’s spot and characteristic rash is another tool to diagnose measles. The saliva or blood of the patient can be sent to the lab for testing presence of measles-specific IgA.

Treatment of measles

There is no treatment for measles. However, nonimmunized individuals can be given measles vaccination within 72 hours of exposure. This will prevent the appearance of disease. If it does occur, it will be milder and for shorter duration.

Immune serum globulin can be given to people with weak immune system, infants or pregnant ladies. This will help make the symptoms less severe and even prevent measles to some extent.

Prevention of measles

Immunization is the only way to prevent measles. Children should be immunized when they reach 1 year of age with MMR vaccine. It is a single vaccine that helps give immunity against mumps, measles and rubella.

Measles is a childhood disease that can turn very serious in adults as well as immunologically compromised children.Speak to your local healthcare providers regarding measles and its vaccine. Any case of measles should be reported to the health authorities. Do not take measles infection lightly. Make sure you visit the doctor immediately for help.

Prognosis of measles

Most of the patients who do not develop complications show good prognosis. However, immuno suppressedpatients, malnourished kids show a high risk of complications. In regions where there is lack of adequate health care, mortality is as high as 10%.

Written by: healthplus24.com team

Date last updated: January 25, 2015

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