Measles can be dangerous beyond your expectation


The World Health Organization (WHO) reported 5,273 cases of measles in the European region during 2016. Moreover, PHE-Public Health England recorded 267 confirmed cases of measles in the UK during the same year. However, in January 2018 a report suggested that the cases of measles in Europe had increased four-fold in 2017.

Measles is a dangerous outcome of a highly contagious virus. Thus, a decline in immunization rates partly is blamed for the disease’s resurgence. Measles can be very dangerous and cause serious complications in anyone who contracts it. We need to recognize the symptoms as soon as possible and start with effective vaccination.

Experts from the WHO Vaccine-preventable Diseases programme declare vaccines safe for treating such diseases. They specifically point out that the efficacy of the measles vaccine in the majority of cases. Two appropriate and timely-given doses provide full protection for at least several decades of life.

Research studies suggest an association between the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism. This is what caused many of the parents to decide against having their child vaccinated. Despite official NHS advice and education from health visitors and doctors this mistrust still continues today.

Symptoms of the disease

The virus causing the measles is highly contagious. It spreads through coughing, sneezing, close personal contact, or direct contact with infected nasal or throat secretions.

The virus, at the first contact, infects the respiratory tract and then spreads throughout the body. It is transmitted by an infected person within four days before or after a rash appears. The measles virus stays active and contagious for up to two hours.

The common signs at the initial stages of the disease usually include,

  • High fever
  • Runny nose
  • Red and watery eyes
  • Small white spots inside the cheeks

Fever particularly begins anywhere from seven to 21 days after the viral exposure. Although 10-12 days are most common and it lasts four to seven days.

After several days, a rash erupts. At first, it usually appears on the face and upper neck and after three days it spreads to the hands and feet. The rash lasts for five to six days and then fades. On average, the rash occurs 14 days after exposure to the virus. Anyone who has not previously had the disease or didn’t receive vaccination don’t develop immunity against the virus.

The best strategy for a 6-months-old child is to have the MMR vaccine within 72 hours of viral contact. Below 6 months in age should be injected with human normal immunoglobulin or HNIG. HNIG provides temporary but immediate protection against the virus and needs to be given within six days of exposure.

Measles come with potential complications

Anyone with measles can develop serious and fatal complications. These complications are more common in children under 5 years or adults over years 30 old.

The most serious complications include,

  • Loss of vision
  • Encephalitis (an infection that causes brain swelling)
  • Severe diarrhea and dehydration
  • Ear infections
  • Severe respiratory infections such as pneumonia

These conditions can be avoided through supportive care ensuring good nutrition, adequate fluid intake, and treatment of dehydration. Antibiotics are recommended to treat eye and ear infections, and pneumonia.

Some parents rely on ‘herd immunity.’ They believe that most other people are immune and that therefore the risk of viral contact is relatively low.

However, experts say you only need a few people to be unvaccinated for a mini-epidemic to start, or the child might come across the infection while traveling abroad. But if your child has had the routine vaccines, they are unlikely to catch the disease. Even just the first vaccine gives 93% immunity.

Concluding the whole story, measles can be a dangerous disease, and a timely assessment is important to reduce the risk of life-threatening complications.


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Areeba Hussain
The author is a Medical Microbiologist and healthcare writer. She is a post-graduate of Medical Microbiology and Immunology. She covers all content on health and wellness including weight loss, nutrition, and general health.


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