Measles is a serious disease caused by virus. The severity of this disease can be judged from the fact that up to the year 1980, when the anti measles vaccine was not in use, an estimated 2.6 million deaths were reported worldwide as a result of this disease. A majority of the fatal cases were children below the age of five. This is also a fact that more than 90% of the deaths were reported from countries where medical facilities are weak. However, as the vaccine is getting popular and being supported under WHO programmes, the instances of measles have started to reduce.
Measles in children is caused by the virus which normally grows in the cells that line the back of the throat and lungs. The first sign or symptom of measles is high fever which occurs within 10 days of exposure to the virus and lasts for four to seven days. Running nose, cough, watery eyes and small white spots inside the cheeks develop in the initial stage of illness. When the disease gets full blown in some days, a rash starts to appear, starting from the face and neck. In about next three days it spreads to hands and feet. This rash lasts for five to six days and then starts to fade. Children who are under nourished and have inadequate intake of Vitamin A are more likely to be worst affected. People having low immune system due to HIV or other diseases are also severely affected.
Complications that are associated with this disease are blindness, encephalitis or swelling in the brain, severe diarrhea and consequent dehydration, ear and respiratory infection. This stage needs immediate hospitalization and proper medical care.
Being a highly contagious disease caused due to viral infection, it spreads by cough and sneezing. It also spreads from touch of the infected person or by use of clothes like towel etc earlier used by the person who is infected by this virus. Virus, once in the air, remains alive for about two hours. When a healthy person breathes in this air it affects him. Virus can be transmitted by infected person from four days prior to development of rash to four days after rash has erupted. In case where the population density is high and medical facilities are less, it can very soon convert into an epidemic, especially in children. In countries like USA and other developed countries where due to proper vaccination programme this disease has been eradicated largely, people travelling from the affected countries become carriers of the disease.
Once this disease enters any house hold, it is likely to affect all members of the family who live together and especially those who have not undergone proper vaccination programme.
For treatment proper care and good nutritive food is necessary to be given to the child. The patient should be administered adequate quantity of liquid. WHO recommended oral rehydration solution should be an excellent option. This will help rehydration of the body and will also provide necessary elements lost due to vomiting or diarrhoea. In case the attack worsens and results in infection in ears and eyes, antibiotics should be given under medical advice. To reduce fever some medicine can be given but remember never to administer aspirin to a child as it may result in damage to vital organs of the child.
This disease is caused by virus so specific treatment cannot be prescribed and the virus has to run its course. Medicines can be given to reduce pain, suffering and fever. However the child should be given medicines as suggested by the doctor who will prescribe Vitamin A supplements to prevent spreading of infection to eyes and ears.
For prevention of occurrence of this disease in your child, it is necessary that the child should get proper measles vaccination as prescribed by the doctor. The measles vaccine is safe and very effective, also it is not very expensive and within the reach of all. It is administered free in medical centres run by the government and within the reach of masses. The hybrid vaccine now available also provides protection against mumps and needs to be taken in a single or with a repeat dose, depending upon the country in which the child lives.