Measles is a highly contagious infectious disease. It is spread in the airborne route. Meaning measles can be transmitted easily via coughing and sneezing. The measles virus can live up to two hours in airspace and nearby surfaces. It is estimated that if one person in a predefined area is infected with measles, 90% of those non-immune people will become infected.
Symptoms of measles
Commonly people would have a high fever, rashes, cough and running nose. The rash typically starts on the face and gradually spread to the rest of the body in around 5 days. Common complications that may occur include diarrhoea, middle ear infection and pneumonia. Severe complications may arise in around 1 in 10,000 cases leading to encephalitis ie inflammation of the brain.
Treatment of measles
Management of measles is mainly supportive. Patients would receive adequate fluids, analgesics and isolation in hospital. There is no specific anti-viral for measles.
Prevention is better than cure
Thanks to the development of the MMR vaccine (measles, mumps and rubella), there is a dramatic decrease in measles case worldwide. It is recommended that the first dose be given at 12-15months and the second dose at 4 – 6 years of age. The data from CDC says that people who received 2 doses of MMR should be 97% effective against measles.
Why do we have a measles outbreak?
The latest outbreaks were likely due to US travellers being infected abroad and brought back the virus to the states. Because of various reasons, there is a low vaccination rate in US soil. When people with this highly contagious disease returned to the states, outbreaks occur easily as there is no adequate immunity in the population.
Bottom line: The best way to prevent measles is to get the MMR vaccine if you have not be vaccinated or do not have natural immunity. Always be vigilant and maintain good personal hygiene.