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Health and Fitness News

More About Measles

A preventable disease, measles still claims hundreds of thousands of lives each year.

Before a vaccine was available, almost all children got the measles. As a result, hundreds died and thousands were hospitalized every year. In 1963, a measles vaccine was developed so that today, in countries with routine measles vaccinations, the disease has largely been eliminated. Pockets of outbreaks still occur in unvaccinated populations, but they are few and far between.

In unvaccinated countries, hundreds of thousands of people still die from the measles, mostly young children. With the World Health Organization’s immunization campaigns, the number of measles deaths decreased by 84 percent from the year 2000 to the year 2016.

Given in two doses and typically combined with a vaccine against mumps and rubella, the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine is inexpensive, safe, and effective. Some children may receive the MMRV vaccine, which also protects against the varicella (chickenpox) virus. If you’re still on the fence regarding these vaccines, keep reading to learn more about measles so you can better weight the risks and rewards of vaccination.

Fever, Cough, Rash

Symptoms of measles appear one to two weeks after exposure. The first symptoms include a high fever, cough, runny nose, and red, watery eyes. Two to three days later, small white spots called Koplik’s spots show up in the mouth. A day or two later, a rash starts on the face and spreads to the rest of the body.

The rash is typically flat, red blotches but may become raised over time. With the rash, the sufferer’s fever may spike to more than 104 degrees Fahrenheit. After a few days, the rash begins to fade.

Spreads Easily

Measles is highly contagious. In fact, 9 out of 10 people who come in contact with an infected person will become sick if they aren’t immune. The virus is spread though contact with mucus, coughing, and sneezing. Once coughed or sneezed into the air, the virus can stay alive for two hours and infect anyone who breathes it in. And if it lands on a hard surface, the virus can stay alive and active for several hours.

After being infected, you’re contagious an average of eight days: four days before the rash breaks out and four days after the rash develops. Call your doctor if you’ve been exposed to the virus or if you have a rash that resembles the measles rash.

Complications Are Possible

Young children and adults are at the greatest risk for complications from a measles infection. The most common complications include ear infections, diarrhea, bronchitis, croup, or laryngitis. Serious complications include pneumonia (an infection of the lungs) and encephalitis (swelling in the brain) that may require hospitalization or lead to death.

Measles Prevention

Unlike countless other diseases, measles is one you can prevent. A single dose of the MMR vaccine is 93 percent effective at protecting you from measles. Two doses and you’re 97 percent safe.

The first dose is typically give to a child age 12 to 15 months and the second dose is recommended between the ages of 4 and 6 years. When parents choose not to immunize their children, measles outbreaks occur more frequently, which can be highly dangerous for children with health conditions that make immunization impossible.