What is Measles?
Although monkeys can also be infected, they do not play a role in the transmission of measles.
The measles virus is spread through coughing and sneezing, as well as direct contact with infected people. The virus dies quickly if exposed to ultraviolet light (UV rays), chemicals, acids, and heat.
Causes of Measles
Measles is a highly contagious disease caused by a viral infection that replicates in the nose and throat of an infected child or adult. When a person with measles coughs, sneezes, or talks, the droplets will spray into the air. If you inhale the droplets, you are at risk of contracting measles.
Infected droplets can also land on a surface or an object, where they remain active and contagious for several hours. You can catch the virus when you put your fingers in your mouth, nose, or rub your eyes after touching the contaminated surface.
According to WebMD, about 90% of susceptible people will catch the measles virus from an infected person.
When to See a Doctor for Measles
Your doctor makes the diagnosis based on the characteristics of the rash all over your body and seeing the presence of koplik’s spots, which are small, blue white spots with a surrounding red halo inside the mouth. Koplik’s spots are usually on the inner lining of your cheeks.
However, measles can also be confused with a number of other diseases with similar symptoms. If necessary, your doctor may perform blood tests to confirm if the rash is a sign and symptom of measles.
The virus can also be confirmed through other methods such as throat swab technique or urine test.
Symptoms of Measles
Symptoms of measles begin about 10 to 14 days after exposure to the virus from an infected person. Possible signs and symptoms may include:
- Dry cough
- Sore throat
- Red rashes
- Red eye due to inflammation (conjunctivitis)
- Koplik’s spots – which are blue-white spots with a surrounding red halo
Incubation Period of Measles
Measles virus infection occurs sequentially over a period of 2 to 3 weeks. Here is how the sequence of stages goes:
- Infection and incubation
This is a condition during the first 10 to 14 days after you are infected with the measles virus. During this period, you will not develop any signs or symptoms of measles.
- Non-specific signs and symptoms
Measles infection usually begins with a low to moderate fever along with a persistent cough, runny nose, conjunctivitis and sore throat. This stage may last for 2 to 3 days.
- Acute rash
These tiny red spots that collect into a rash begin to appear on your skin. Some of them are slightly raised. Spots and bumps that appear close together will make your skin look reddish. Over the next several days, the rash spread to your arms, neck, thighs, and legs. At the same time, the fever will increase drastically, to as high as 40 to 41 degrees Celsius.
- Infectious period
A person with measles can spread the virus to other people for about eight days, starting four days before the rash appears until the rash has been present for four days.
Treatment for Measles
There is no specific treatment for measles. However, there are some medical treatments to protect individuals who are susceptible to contract the virus, such as:
- Post-exposure vaccination
People who have not been vaccinated, including infants, should get the measles vaccine within 72 hours after being exposed to the virus. The goal is to provide protection from the disease. If measles continue to develop, you will likely experience mild symptoms for a short time.
- Immune serum globulin
Pregnant women, infants, and people with weak immune systems should receive an injection of a protein (antibody) called immune serum globulin, which is given after 6 days of exposure to the virus. Antibodies can prevent measles and relieve symptoms.
In addition, your doctor may prescribe medications to reduce symptoms of measles, namely:
- Fever-lowering medications
You can take over-the-counter medications, such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen sodium to reduce fever. Do not give aspirin to children or teenagers who have symptoms of measles, as aspirin is linked to Reye’s syndrome, which is a rare, life-threatening condition.
If a bacterial infection such as pneumonia or ear infection develops while you have measles, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics.
- Vitamin A
Children with vitamin A deficiencies are more prone to getting more severe symptoms of measles. Vitamin A can help reduce the severity of measles.
Treatment Cost for Measles
Treatment cost for measles vaccination varies from hospital to hospital. To find out the estimated treatment cost for measles at home and abroad, contact Smarter Health.
Prevention of Measles
One way to prevent measles is through measles vaccinations. Talk to your doctor about getting the MMR vaccine, particularly if you are planning on traveling.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is recommended that each individual get the MMR vaccine to protect themselves from measles, mumps, and rubella.
Children at age 4 and 6 should get two doses of the vaccine. Children can also get the MMRV vaccine to protect themselves from measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella (chickenpox). However, this vaccine is only allowed for children between 1-12 years old.
Immunization or MMR vaccine is given later than some other childhood vaccines, as antibodies can protect children from disease and make the MMR vaccine less effective until they turn one.
Home Remedies for Measles
If you or your child has measles, be sure to consult your doctor while monitoring the progress of the disease and any complications. Take the following steps to treat measles at home:
- Get plenty of rest and avoid strenuous activities.
- Use a humidifier to relieve coughs and sore throats.
- Drink plenty of water, fruit juices, and herbal teas to replace lost fluids due to fever and sweating
- If bright lights are distracting, turn off the lights or wear sunglasses. Avoid reading books and watching television if the light from reading lamps and television interferes with your vision.
Call your doctor if you think you or your child has symptoms of measles, especially if you develop a red rash on your skin.