The following information was sourced from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (view source) and the World Health Organization (view source). This article is for educational purposes only and is not intended to provide instruction on any medical diagnosis or treatment. Always consult your physician or other qualified healthcare provider before acting on any information you read on this or any other internet site.
What is measles?
Measles is a highly contagious, serious disease caused by a virus. Before the introduction of measles vaccine in 1963 and widespread vaccination, major epidemics occurred approximately every 2–3 years and measles caused an estimated 2.6 million deaths each year. Measles is caused by a virus in the paramyxovirus family and it is normally passed through direct contact and through the air. The virus infects the respiratory tract, then spreads throughout the body. No specific antiviral treatment exists for measles virus.
What are the signs and symptoms?
The first sign of measles is usually a high fever, which begins about 10 to 12 days after exposure to the virus, and lasts 4 to 7 days. A runny nose, a cough, red and watery eyes, and small white spots inside the cheeks can develop in the initial stage. After several days, a rash erupts, usually on the face and upper neck. Over about 3 days, the rash spreads, eventually reaching the hands and feet. The rash lasts for 5 to 6 days, and then fades. On average, the rash occurs 14 days after exposure to the virus (within a range of 7 to 18 days).
Most measles-related deaths are caused by complications associated with the disease. Serious complications are more common in children under the age of 5, or adults over the age of 30. The most serious complications include blindness, encephalitis (an infection that causes brain swelling), severe diarrhea and related dehydration, ear infections, or severe respiratory infections such as pneumonia. Severe measles is more likely among poorly nourished young children, especially those with insufficient vitamin A, or whose immune systems have been weakened by HIV/AIDS or other diseases.
How do you treat measles?
No specific antiviral treatment exists for measles virus.
Severe complications from measles can be reduced through supportive care that ensures good nutrition, adequate fluid intake and treatment of dehydration with WHO-recommended oral rehydration solution. This solution replaces fluids and other essential elements that are lost through diarrhea or vomiting. Antibiotics should be prescribed to treat eye and ear infections, and pneumonia.
All children diagnosed with measles should receive two doses of vitamin A supplements, given 24 hours apart. This treatment restores low vitamin A levels during measles that occur even in well-nourished children and can help prevent eye damage and blindness. Vitamin A supplements have also been shown to reduce the number of measles deaths.
I think I have the measles. What should I do?
In the case of any life-threatening emergency, measles-related or otherwise, call 911. But under typical circumstances, if you think you or your child may have the measles, do not go to the emergency room, urgent care, or doctor’s office without calling first. Call your doctor immediately and let them know about your symptoms so that they can tell you what to do next. Your doctor or emergency room team can make special arrangements to evaluate you, if needed, without putting other patients and medical office staff at risk.
I’ve been exposed to someone who has measles. What should I do?
Immediately call your doctor and let them know that you have been exposed to someone who has measles. Outside of a medical emergency, do not go to the emergency room, urgent care, or doctor’s office without calling first. Your doctor can
- make special arrangements to evaluate you, if needed, without putting other patients and medical office staff at risk, and
- determine if you are immune to measles based on your vaccination record, age, or laboratory evidence.
If you are not immune to measles, MMR vaccine or a medicine called immune globulin may help reduce your risk developing measles. Your doctor can advise you and monitor you for signs and symptoms of measles.
If you are not immune and do not get MMR or immune globulin, you should stay away from settings where there are susceptible people (such as school, hospital, or childcare) until your doctor says it’s okay to return. This will help ensure that you do not spread it to others.
My doctor or someone from the health department told me I have measles. What should I do?
If you have measles, you should stay home for four days after you develop the rash. Staying home is an important way to not spread measles to other people. Ask your doctor when it is safe to be around other people again. You should also
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and put your used tissue in the trash can. If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow, not your hands.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water.
- Avoid sharing drinks or eating utensils.
- Disinfect frequently-touched surfaces, such as toys, doorknobs, tables, and counters. Standard household disinfectants will readily kill the measles virus.
- Call your doctor if you are concerned about your symptoms.
Can measles be prevented?
Routine measles vaccination for children, combined with mass immunization campaigns in countries with high case and death rates, are key public health strategies to reduce global measles deaths. The measles vaccine has been in use for over 50 years. It is safe, effective and inexpensive. It costs approximately one US dollar to immunize a child against measles.
The measles vaccine is often incorporated with rubella and/or mumps vaccines. It is equally safe and effective in the single or combined form. Adding rubella to measles vaccine increases the cost only slightly, and allows for shared delivery and administration costs.
In 2017, about 85% of the world’s children received 1 dose of measles vaccine by their first birthday through routine health services – up from 72% in 2000. Two doses of the vaccine are recommended to ensure immunity and prevent outbreaks, as about 15% of vaccinated children fail to develop immunity from the first dose. In 2017, 67% of children received the second dose of the measles vaccine.
Of the estimated 20.8 million infants not vaccinated with at least one dose of measles vaccine through routine immunization in 2017, about 8.1 million were in 3 countries: India, Nigeria and Pakistan.
Learn more at vaccines.gov.
Where can I turn for help?
In any emergency situation, you should call 911 immediately. In most non-emergency situations, you should call your primary care provider or pediatrician immediately for advice and before visiting the medical office or emergency room. As a last resort in non-emergency situations, you can call the Matagorda Regional Medical Center’s Emergency Department at (979) 241-3315 and we’ll be happy to assist.