What is the measles virus?
|Paramyxovirus particles, artwork – SR2278|
Measles (a.k.a. Rubeola) is a serious respiratory disease which was a common childhood illness in the US before a vaccine was distributed in 1963.
What are the symptoms of measles?
Symptoms include fever, cough, sneezing/runny nose, sore throat, fatigue and conjunctivitis (pink eye). The body breaks out into a rash after about four days, with red spots or blotches spreading from the face to the rest the body.
Is measles contagious?
Yes. Unlike diseases such as Ebola, which requires direct contact with an infected patient’s body fluids, measles is airborne and can remain in a space for up to two hours after an infected person has left the area. The virus can also spread through the air before the onset of a rash, meaning patients can be contagious before they even know they have measles.
How is measles treated?
Patients will usually recover after seven to ten days and require rest, fluids and fever management. However, complications can include anything from dehydration to more severe pneumonia or encephalitis (swelling of the brain). For every 1,000 children infected by measles, one or two will die.
A vaccine is normally given to children age 12-15 months, and again at age 4-6. Children with cancer and other diseases which weaken the immune system cannot receive the vaccine, and depend on the immunity of others to keep the disease from spreading. Dependence on this “herd immunity” is the most effective way to prevent outbreaks from occurring.