A crying infant covered in red rashes and bumps.

Measles: A History, The Symptoms, and What to do Next

The United States is in the middle of a vaccination crisis, and it is evidenced by the increase in the number of positive diagnoses of a preventable disease thought to have been eradicated in America in the 2000’s. The measles are making a comeback, and while this disease shares some of the characteristics of less severe illnesses, the consequences can be much more severe.

Background

According to the Centers of Disease Control, the measles were first documented in the 9th century by a Persian doctor. By 1912, it was recognized as a major disease in the United States, killing about 6,000 people every year. A vaccine didn’t become widely available until 1963, and by this point, 3-4 million Americans became infected annually, and about 500 of those Americans died each year. By 1968, the Edmonston-Enders vaccine was the sole vaccine used for measles, and has been so since. In the late 70’s, the CDC sought to eliminate measles from the United States by 1982; however, this couldn’t be accomplished due to an outbreak in 1989.Measles wasn’t declared eradicated in the United States until 2000. In order for a disease to be considered eliminated, the absence of continuous disease transmission needs to extend past twelve months. In recent years, the measles has been making a comeback largely due to globalization and the anti-vaxxer movement. As of the time of this writing, there have been 839 confirmed cases in the United States from January, 2019 to May, 2019.

Signs and Symptoms

Measles is generally regarded as a childhood disease due to the fact that it is highly contagious and prior to vaccination, nearly all children got measles by the time they were 15 years of However, it can be fatal to children, especially the very young, and adults, especially with other medical issues. Most patients who die from it are under the age of five. As many as 1 out of every 20 children with measles gets pneumonia, the most common cause of death from measles in young children. One of the many interesting things about measles is how contagious it is. The virus lives in the mucus of the nose and throat of an infected person, and can linger on a surface or in the air, such as after a sneeze, for up to two hours. Symptoms usually start anywhere between seven and fourteen days after infection. The first most notable signs are high fever, cough, runny nose, and red, irritable eyes, similar to that of a bad cold or the flu. A couple days after that, white spots often appear in the mouth. Shortly after that, the famous ‘measles rash’ appears, starting at the hair line and spreading across the body. The rash may be accompanied by small, red bumps and a fever around 104˚ F.

There are additional complications associated with the measles. They range in frequency and severity, but ultimately can result in permanent disability or death. Some common complications include

  • Diarrhea and vomiting
  • Ear infections
  • Eye infections
  • Laryngitis
  • Infections in the airways or lungs (pneumonia)
  • Seizures associated with fever
  • Premature birth or low-birth-weight babies in pregnant women to contract the disease.

However, these common complications can lead to more serious issues. For instance, if the eye infection becomes too intense, it can result in blindness. The membranes surrounding the brain can also become infected, which can lead to more seizures and even death. About 1 child out of every 1,000 who get measles will develop encephalitis (swelling of the brain) that can lead to convulsions and can leave the child deaf or with intellectual disability.

What to do Next

If you believe you have the measles, it is vital that you contact a medical professional immediately. Because of the highly contagious nature of the illness, you cannot treat it at home; you must see a doctor.  It is very important that you limit interactions with other people, even those that are vaccinated. A doctor can diagnose the disease, and guide you from there. The measles are, fortunately, very preventable. The MMR vaccine is very safe and effective. Two doses of MMR vaccine are about 97% effective at preventing measles; one dose is about 93% effective. Children may also get MMRV vaccine, which protects against measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella (chickenpox). The disease targets those with compromised immune systems; babies, the elderly, and the sickly, but the vaccine can

Healthpointe is here to address your concerns regarding the measles and vaccinations. Make an appointment here or call us at (888) 824-5580 to schedule a time to meet with a doctor and get your vaccinations up to date.

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About Miranda Eastman

Miranda is a long-time Southern California resident and Whittier College alumnus with a deep love for the outdoors and enthusiasm for all things travel. When not working, she can be found exploring via train, plane, or automobile (and occasionally, on the open sea).

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