Measles is a disease common in children also known as rubeola. In the year 2000, in the United States measles had been almost eliminated, but as people have begun choosing not to vaccinate their children the disease is making a comeback. You should educate yourself about this sometimes fatal disease and its symptoms.
Causes of Measles
Measles are very contagious. The virus lives in the mucous contained in the throat or nose of the infected person. An infected person is contagious from 4 days prior to showing symptoms until 4 days after they resolve. If they sneeze or cough causing infected droplets to land on surfaces such as furniture, telephones or touch door knobs after they have particles on their hands the disease can be contracted if you also touch these surfaces and then touch your mouth or eyes for several hours. Good hand washing and covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze is essential.
Symptoms of Measles
The symptoms of measles will usually appear about 10 to 12 days after you have been exposed.
The symptoms of measles include:
- Runny nose
- Dry cough
- Conjunctivitis, red and inflamed eyes
- Light sensitivity
- Skin rash that resembles large, flat blotches. They often seem to flow into each other
- Koplik’s spots which appear as tiny white spots with bluish-white tinged centers inside the mouth on the cheek lining.
Treatment for Measles
If measles are already established there is not a treatment to cure them, they will run the course and care is taken to treat symptoms and prevent spreading the disease.
There are some treatments to protect those at high risk who may have been exposed to measles before they are established.
- Immune serum globulin can be given to women who are pregnant, people with weak immune systems and infants who have been exposed to the virus. This is an injection of antibodies which can help defend against the infection developing or make the symptoms less severe if given within 6 days after being exposed.
- Post exposure vaccination is available within the first 72 hours of exposure for people who have not been immunized, this includes infants. The post exposure vaccine is to provide protection against developing the infection and if it does still develop it can help make the symptoms less severe and shorten the duration.
If the infection is established treatment is in management of the symptoms. Analgesics may be given for fevers and discomfort. Some cases of measles will result in complications such as ear infections or pneumonia and if these develop they will be treated with antibiotics. To prevent the spread of the virus due to it being highly contagious there is usually some type of isolation for the infected person. Keeping them in one area of the home, assigning one bathroom for their use only can help prevent other household members from contracting measles. Your physician should be able to tell you the measures you should take.