Exposed to Measles? How does the measles virus cause disease?

Exposed to Measles? How does the measles virus cause disease?

Measles is an acute viral infection caused by Paramyxovirus. Transmission of the disease happens by airborne. As an infectious disease, measles may cause serious health problems for babies, pregnant women, and immunocompromised people.

In developing countries, measles is still a serious health threat for people from all age; especially to children under five years old. Examples of serious complications which may occur including:

  • Diarrhea with profuse vomiting that may cause dehydration.
  • Infection of lower respiratory tract (pneumonia) which is the complication with the highest fatality rate.
  • Infection of the middle ear which may cause hearing impairment.
  • Vitamin A deficiency which may cause eye disorder.
  • Infection of the brain that may cause death.
  • Subacute Sclerosis Panencephalitis (SSPE) - a neurological disorder that affect the central nervous system - caused by measles infection during childhood.

To pregnant women, measles may cause labor before due date so that the infant will have low birth weight.

Symptoms of measles infection are high fever, coughing, red & inflamed eyes, and red blotchy skin rashes that may cover every part of the body. These symptoms usually occur after 10 to 12 days after measles virus infection.

After 10 to 12 days of infection, the first symptom that appears is a high fever (body temperature > 38.0° C) that may persists for 2 to 5 days. During this fever, other symptoms such as coughing and red & inflamed eye may also occur. Clinician may also find Koplik's Spots which is a diagnostic feature of measles. Koplik's Spots is a small white spot on a reddened background that can be found on the inside of the cheeks, but it may only be found during one or two days before skin rash occurs & usually disappears in 12 to 18 hours.

During the fourth or fifth day of fever; the fever will reach its peak; and will be followed with the appearance of red blotchy skin rashes. These skin rashes will appear first on the area behind the ears; then they will spread to the neck, face, then to every part of the body surface. These skin rashes may persist for three days, then they will subside gradually in order of the onset of these skin rashes.

Measles without complication can be treated as an outpatient care. Medications will be prescribed according to each case's symptoms. To facilitate faster recovery; patients are advised to have sufficient meal & drinks and ample rest. Children with measles may also take a bath or shower to clean themselves. For children with measles, they will also be given Vitamin A suplement with doses according to their ages. To prevent transmission to other people; patients with measles are advised to undergo quarantined for at least for days since skin rashes occur or until their symptoms subside.

For measles with complications; patients are advised to be admitted in a hospital to receive further treatment. Examples of high-alert signs form measles with complications are:

  • Loss of consciousness and seizures
  • Coughing with difficulty breathing
  • Dehydration caused by frequent diarrhea
  • Weight loss and malnutrition
  • Ear disorder due to infection
  • Dry eye wih vision impairment

To prevent measles, children are recommended to get measles vaccine. The vaccination can start to be administered to children around nine months of age. If your child has mild symptoms of kidney disease, consult to your doctor immediately to get relevant advice regarding the possibility of early preventive treatment.

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