Measles: How it spreads, symptoms, prevention, treatment tips, vaccines
When a person is infected with Measles virus, the infection can last up to ten days, during which the individual can contract various diseases like ear infections, diarrhea and Pneumonia, apart from fever and rashes. Here's how it spreads, symptoms, prevention, treatment tips, vaccines
A few days ago Mumbai reported an outbreak of Measles, a highly contagious viral infection which happened a year before the country’s target to eliminate the disease by December 2023. This is a cause for alarm for health authorities as three kids between the ages of 1-5 years have died due to the infection in Mumbai’s Govandi area.
In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Kirti Sabnis, Infectious Disease Specialist at Fortis Hospital in Kalyan and Mulund and Dr Asmita Mahajan, Consultant Neonatologist and Pediatrician at SL Raheja Hospital in Mahim, explained, “Measles is a highly infectious disease that is caused by the Measles virus. When a person is infected with this virus, the infection can last up to ten days, during which the individual can contract various diseases like ear infections, diarrhea, and Pneumonia, apart from fever and rashes.”
WHY ARE VACCINES AGAINST MEASLES IMPORTANT?
No recent data is available in the public domain on the percentage of kids who are vaccinated against Measles. As per data collected between 2017-2020, India has vaccinated over 324 million children against Measles-Rubella through a vaccination campaign, as reported by WHO.
According to Dr Kirti Sabnis and Dr Asmita Mahajan, vaccination against Measles is highly effective and there is a scarce chance that a child who has been vaccinated will get the disease. They shared, “This is the main reason the MR (Measles-Rubella) vaccine, as part of the government’s Universal Immunization Program, is offered free of cost. There is no doubt that Measles cannot be eliminated from India unless a significant majority of the kids are immunized against it across every geography.”
HOW DOES MEASLES SPREAD?
Dr Kirti Sabnis and Dr Asmita Mahajan, revealed, “Since Measles is caused by a virus that originates in the nose and throat of an infected child or adult, it has the potential to become highly infectious. This means that droplets spread in the air when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks. As a result, when other people breathe them in, they can become infected. In everyday situations, infectious droplets can hang in the air for about an hour, which is why patient isolation is critical.”
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF MEASLES?
“As it is a Flu strain, the symptoms are like the regular Flu-like – a high fever, tiredness, severe cough, red or bloodshot eyes, and a runny nose. Measles can also cause red rashes on the body, which start at the head and then move to various other body parts. Some other symptoms of Measles may include a sore throat, white spots in the mouth, muscle pain and sensitivity to light (light can cause pain in the eyes of an infected person),” the health experts said.
HOW CAN MEASLES BE PREVENTED?
Dr Kirti Sabnis and Dr Asmita Mahajan suggested, “Anyone who isn’t vaccinated is at risk of contracting Measles. Before the invention of the vaccine, almost everyone could contract the disease. If a person has had or was vaccinated against Measles, they are more likely to be immune to it. However, if there is a new strain of the virus, all persons might be at an equal risk.”
WHAT IS THE TREATMENT PROTOCOL FOR MEASLES?
Dr Kirti Sabnis and Dr Asmita Mahajan highlighted, “Currently, there is no cure for Measles. For a person to recover, the virus must run its course, which usually takes about 10 to 14 days.” They recommended some ways to treat the patient:
- Taking prescribed painkillers for aches, pains, or fever. Paracetamol is usually given for fever, body aches etc. However, if the patient is pregnant or below the age of five, a doctor’s advice should be sought, as giving these patients painkillers can prove to be dangerous
- Get plenty of rest, as the body needs time to recover
- Drinking sufficient fluids and gargling with salt water at regular intervals
- Avoid harsh light if it hurts your eyes
- Vit A supplements given can mitigate complications of measles e.g. diarrhea and pneumonia
- If the child is severely ill and possibly has a secondary bacterial infection, IV antibiotics can be given as treatment protocol
- Supportive treatment like nebulization can be considered as per the need
If untreated, Measles can be fatal, mainly if it occurs in pregnant people, adults above 20 years, children 5 years old or younger and people with weakened immune systems.