Measles is a childhood infection caused by a virus. Once quite common, measles can now almost always be prevented with a vaccine.
Also called rubeola, measles can be serious and even fatal for small children. While death rates have been falling worldwide as more children receive the measles vaccine, the disease still kills more than 100,000 people a year, most under the age of 5.
Measles signs and symptoms appear around 10 to 14 days after exposure to the virus. Signs and symptoms of measles typically include;
- Dry cough
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
- Inflamed eyes (conjunctivitis)
- Tiny white spots with bluish-white center on a red background found inside the mouth on the inner lining of the cheek – also called Koplik’s spots
- A skin rash made up of large, flat blotches that often flow into one another.
Measles is caused by infection with a virus from the paramyxovirus family. Viruses are tiny parasitic microbes. Once a person has been infected, the virus invades host cells and uses cellular components to complete its life cycle.
The measles virus infects the respiratory tract first’ however, it eventually spreads to other parts of the body through the bloodstream.
Measles is only known to occur in humans and not in other animals. There are 24 known genetic types of measles, although only 6 are currently circulating.
Types of Measles
There are two types of measles;
Measles – this is the standard form caused by the rubeola virus
Rubella or German Measles – this is caused by the rubella virus
There’s no specific treatment for measles. Unlike bacterial infections, viral infections aren’t sensitive to antibiotics. The virus and symptoms typically disappear in about 2-3 weeks.
There are some interventions available for people who may have been exposed to the virus. These can help prevent an infection or lessen its severity. They include;
- A measles vaccine, given within 72 hours of exposure
- A dose of immune proteins called immunoglobulin, taken within six days of exposure
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