Measles, also known as rubeola, is a viral infection of the respiratory system. Measles is a very contagious disease that can spread through contact with infected mucus and saliva. The coughing or sneezing of an infected person can release the virus into the air. The virus can live on surfaces for several hours. As the infected particles enter the air and settle on surfaces, anyone within close proximity can become infected with the measles virus.
Drinking from an infected person’s glass or sharing eating utensils with an infected person increases your risk of infection.
Who Is at Risk for Measles?The number of measles cases has significantly dropped in recent decades due to immunizations. Measles primarily occurs in unvaccinated children. Some parents choose not to vaccinate their children for fear that vaccines will have adverse effects on their children. Most children and adults who receive a measles vaccine do not experience side effects. But in rare cases, the vaccine has been linked to seizures, deafness, brain damage, and coma. Some parents believe that the measles vaccine can cause autism in children. However, numerous studies have yet to find a link between autism and immunizations.
A vitamin A deficiency is also a risk factor for measles. Children with too little vitamin A in their diets have a higher risk of catching the virus.
What Are the Symptoms of Measles?
Symptoms of measles generally appear within 14 days of exposure to the virus. Symptoms include:
A widespread skin rash is a classic sign of measles. This rash can last up to seven days and generally appears within the first three to five days of exposure to the virus. A measles rash commonly develops at the head and slowly spreads to other parts of the body. Signs of a measles rash include red, itchy bumps.
Your doctor can confirm measles by examining a skin rash and checking for symptoms that are characteristic of the disease, such as white spots in the mouth, fever, cough, and sore throat. If unable to confirm a diagnosis based on observation, your doctor may order a blood test to check for the measles virus.
Complications Associated with Measles
It is important to receive a measles vaccine because measles can lead to life-threatening complications, such as pneumonia and encephalitis (inflammation of the brain). In the United States, about two in 1,000 people die from measles annually. In fact, measles is the fifth leading cause of death and sickness in children worldwide, reports the Better Health Channel
Other complications associated with measles may include: