5 things to know about measles

A childhood infection, measles is a viral disease. Earlier it was quite common among infants and young children. It is highly contagious. Now, due to the availability of vaccines, measles can be easily prevented. The disease spreads through the droplets released from the throat, mouth, and nose of an infected person. The initial symptoms of measles occur 10 to 12 days after the first infection. Some of the most serious complications of this disease are encephalitis, pneumonia, severe diarrhea, extreme dehydration, and blindness.

Read on to know more about this viral infection.

There are two categories of measles based on the type of virus that causes the disease. The first one is the rubeola virus that causes the standard form of measles. The other one is the rubella virus that causes German measles or Rubella.

German measles or rubella is a mild form of measles. It poses more risk to unborn infants as compared to young children. The risk is higher if the mother contracts the rubella virus during her pregnancy. However, this form of measles is not as severe as the standard form. Moreover, the infections caused by the rubella virus are as serious as those caused by the rubeola virus.

What causes measles?
Measles is caused by two viruses: the rubeola virus and the rubella virus. These viruses reside in the mucous membrane of the throat and nose of an infected adult or child. Before the rashes begin to appear, measles is contagious for about 4 days. It will continue to remain contagious for 4 to 5 days after the rashes appear. The measles infection usually spreads through physical contact with an infected person, by being in the proximity of an infected person when they sneeze or cough, or by coming in contact with an infected surface and touching the mouth, nose, or eyes with infected hands.

Common symptoms of measles
One of the most common symptoms of measles is a fever. The fever can be mild to severe, reaching up to 105 degrees Fahrenheit. It can last for several days and fluctuate for the entire duration of the disease. The fever may rise again when rashes appear. The rashes usually start behind the ears and spread to the head and neck. These then spread to the other parts of the body. The rashes can last for more than a week. There can be a cough, runny nose, or conjunctivitis. These symptoms usually appear about 9 to 11 days after the infection is first contracted. Other symptoms include a sore throat, inflamed or swollen eyes, dry hacking cough, sensitivity to light or photophobia, sneezing, reddish-brown rash, and body aches. Also, small gray-white spots that have bluish-white centers appear in the mouth, throat, and insides of the cheeks.

Risk factors
Children who have not been vaccinated for measles are at the highest risk of contracting the infection. In some cases, an extreme deficiency of vitamin A in the diet can lead to severe symptoms of measles and serious complications. People who have to often travel to countries where measles is common are also at the risk of getting measles.

One of the best ways of preventing measles is to get a vaccination against it. The first dose for infants is recommended to be given to infants when they are between 12 and 15 months old. The second dose is administered between 4 and 6 years of age.

An infected person should be kept in a quarantined and isolated space. The disease is very contagious four days before and four days after the rashes appear. People who have not been immunized against measles should stay away from an infected person.