What is measles?
How is measles transmitted?
Measles is primarily transmitted through respiratory droplets when an infected person breathes, coughs, or sneezes. The virus can remain in the air or on surfaces for an extended period.
Therefore, close contact with an infected person or contaminated objects increases the significant chances of the virus spreading. However, it is recommended to avoid contact with infected persons.
What are the symptoms of measles?
Symptoms appear in 8 to 12 days after you are exposed to an infected person with measles, which include:
- Elevated fever
- Dry cough
- Red, watery eyes (conjunctivitis)
- Nasal congestion and a runny nose.
- Small white spots inside the mouth (Koplik’s spots)
- Sensitivity to light (photophobia)
- Muscle and body aches
- Loss of appetite
- Sore throat
What is the incubation period for measles?
How is measles diagnosed?
- Physical examination: Your doctor will conduct a thorough physical examination. They assess specific symptoms associated with measles, such as rash, red eyes, and small white spots inside your mouth (Koplik’s spots).
- Blood test: Your doctor collects blood from a vein, usually in the arm. The blood sample is then sent to a laboratory, where they detect specific antibodies (IgM) in the blood sample. Antibodies are a type of protein developed by our body to fight against viruses. Positive results confirm that you’re infected with the measles virus, and negative tests indicate that you are not infected.
- Swab test: As soon as you get to know you’re infected, inform your doctor, and they will collect the sample through a throat swab or nasal swab. Then the sample is sent to the laboratory, where they detect the genetic material (RNA) of the virus in the sample. If the results are positive, that means you’re infected with the measles virus, and negative results indicate you’re not infected.
What is the treatment for measles?
There is no specific treatment available for measles. However, you can manage it through supportive care to slow down symptoms, which includes:
- Take proper rest and hydrate yourselves
It is recommended to take enough bed rest and drink optimum fluids which helps to prevent dehydration.
- Fever management
You can control fever with medication such as acetaminophen (paracetamol) or ibuprofen, which you can get without a prescription. Do not give aspirin to your children under the age of 16 for this viral disease. It may cause Reye syndrome (swelling in the liver and brain), which is a serious, life-threatening condition.
- Quarantine yourself
Measles is highly contagious; if you get infected with a virus, isolate yourself to prevent the spread of the virus to other people. The virus is transmitted by person-to-person contact therefore, it is recommended to not make contact with uninfected people.
- Take a break for your eyes
If you or your child are sensitive to bright light, a common symptom of measles, use dim lighting or wear sunglasses. Additionally, avoid reading or watching TV that will provide comfort to your eyes.
- Take vitamin A supplements
Children are most affected by the measles virus, which is associated with morbidity and mortality. Studies suggest that vitamin A deficiency increases the risk of severe measles infections. The World Health Organization (WHO) advises vitamin A for measles-affected children in areas prone to vitamin A deficiency.
How long does it take to recover from measles?
How do I prevent measles?
The most effective method of avoiding the measles virus is vaccination. Once you receive the vaccine, you develop immunity (the body’s ability to fight the virus) and there are fewer chances of getting the virus again.
There are mainly two types of measles vaccines available that protect you against the virus, which include:
- Measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine
- Measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella (MMRV) vaccine
When can my child receive the measles vaccine?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the first dose of the MMR vaccine is given around 12-15 months of age, and the second dose is recommended between 4-6 years old.
Additionally, children may receive the MMRV vaccination, which offers protection against varicella (chickenpox), mumps, rubella, and measles. The first dose of the MMRV vaccine is given at the age of 12-15 months, while the second dose is given at the age of 4-6 years.
What are the complications of measles?
Measles complications more commonly occur in babies, pregnant women, and kids who are not healthy or have weak immunity (the ability of the body to fight against disease). Complications include:
- Ear infections
- Pneumonia (infection of the lungs)
- Encephalitis (inflammation of the brain)
Does my child need to go to the hospital with measles?
Can I catch measles from my child?
What should you not do if you have measles?
Can I still get measles even if I'm fully vaccinated?
What is the difference between measles, mumps, and rubella?
- Measles is a highly contagious respiratory infection caused by the measles virus. Symptoms include fever, cough, runny nose, and red rash.
- Mumps is an infectious viral disease caused by the mumps virus. It primarily affects the salivary glands, leading to swollen cheeks and jaw.
- Rubella (German measles) is a contagious viral infection caused by the rubella virus, symptoms are generally mild, including a rash, a low-grade fever, and swollen lymph nodes.
Who is at risk of measles?
Measles can affect anyone, but some people are at a higher risk. Babies and young children, especially if they are not vaccinated, are more prone to the virus. Additionally, individuals with weakened immune systems, pregnant women, and adults who may not have received the full measles vaccination are also at a higher risk.
Travellers can also be at risk of measles if they are travelling to areas with active measles outbreaks or low vaccination rates. It’s recommended to consult with your doctor about whether you or your loved ones may need them for protection.
How can measles affect pregnant women?
Measles can affect both the mother and the baby during pregnancy, which can lead to severe complications. Measles can increase the risk of premature birth and low birth weight, and in some cases, it may lead to miscarriage. Make sure you are immune to measles through vaccination before getting pregnant, and the vaccine is contraindicated during pregnancy.
Note: It is highly recommended to take medical advice if you are pregnant and have had close contact with an individual diagnosed with measles.
What public health measures are in place to control measles outbreaks?
These are public health measures to control measles outbreaks, which include:
- Vaccination campaigns: mass vaccination efforts to ensure high immunisation coverage. They often include outreach programs, mobile clinics, and community-based vaccination centres to make the vaccine easily accessible to everyone.
- Early detection: allows for immediate public health interventions, such as isolation and contact tracing.
- Quarantine: helps monitor and restrict the movement of individuals who may develop symptoms or carry the virus. It helps in mitigating the risk of wider transmission within communities and healthcare facilities.
- Public awareness: by educating people and preventing the spread of false information. Additionally, it focuses on the role of vaccines in preventing measles and its potential complications.
- Kumar A, Das S, Tripathy SK. Measles Elimination in India-Shifting Goal Post. Indian J Pediatr. 2023;90(4):420. doi:10.1007/s12098-023-04494-z
- Leung, A. K., et al. (2018). “Measles: a disease often forgotten but not gone.” Hong Kong Med J 24(5): 512-520.
- Hübschen JM, Gouandjika-Vasilache I, Dina J. Measles. Lancet. 2022 Feb 12;399(10325):678-690.