Measles is a highly contagious viral infection that primarily affects children. The disease is characterized by rash in the form of red spots on the skin and by fever. The virus not only spreads via direct contact, but also by coughing. Anyone who has had measles once, cannot have it again.
Measles is caused by a very infectious virus, the Morbillivirus. The virus is located in the nose, mouth and throat. It is transferred via saliva droplets in the air when coughing or talking. The virus can also be transferred from one to the other via the hands, via cutlery and cups or via toys. Measles is so contagious, that keeping distance and washing hands won’t help.
After infection, it takes about ten days before the child gets sick. Measles is contagious from two days before the first symptoms until four days after the spots have appeared.
Measles starts with cold, cough, red eyes and fever. The fever is often high. White spots emerge on the inside of the cheeks. After a few days there are red spots on the face, and then all over the body. The spots vary in size, gradually get brown and may merge. Then spots remain with normal skin color. The skin may also itch. The fever can disappear and come back severely again.
In some children, measles develop seriously. They get ear infection with sometimes permanent deafness or severe pneumonia. Inflammation of the brains or meninges also occurs, often with permanent brain damage. Severe forms of measles occur mainly in children under the age of five years or in adults who haven’t been vaccinated.
The diagnosis is usually based on the symptoms and the characteristic rash. Sometimes, the doctor takes samples with a swab from the throat, eyes and nose of the patient. In the laboratory can be checked if there is measles.
There are no medicines for measles. Sometimes, doctors prescribe antibiotics for children who also have another infection (with bacteria), for example ear infection or pneumonia. There is no specific treatment for measles, usually one gets better on its own. However, there is a vaccine available to prevent people from getting sick. After vaccination, almost all children are protected against measles. If a person is already infected or suspected to be infected, a vaccine may have a protective effect within three days after infection. Worldwide, eighty percent of the children are vaccinated against measles.
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