Measles is a highly contagious viral disease that typically affects children. It is one of the leading causes of death and disability among young children. India has the fourth highest number of measles cases in the world states a report by World Health Organization (WHO). India stood fourth among 194 countries in the number of measles cases registered between July 2018 and June 2019, according to the latest measles surveillance data released by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Who is Vulnerable to Measles?
Typically in India, children below one year of age get infected by the virus and they have the highest incidence rate, according to WHO. Children in the age group of 1-4 years accounts for the second highest rate of incidence. . This is followed by children between 5-9 years who present with the third highest incidence. India has already increased the vaccination coverage for measles. However, as per a paper authored by two paediatricians from Mumbai, it still far from achieving the deadline set by WHO of 95 percent coverage till 2020.
Early Signs and Symptoms
Measles signs and symptoms appear around 10 to 15 days post exposure to the virus. Some of them include:
- Dry cough
- Inflamed eyes
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
- Skin rashes
Causes of Measles
Measles is caused by infection with the rubeola virus. The virus lives in the mucus of the infected individual’s nose and throat. The disease is transmissible for 4 days before the rash starts appearing, and it stays for about 4 to 5 days after. The virus remains active for 2 hours on an object.
Infection spreads through:
- Physical contact with an infected person
- Being around infected people when they cough or sneeze
- Touching a surface that has been infected by the droplets of mucus and then putting fingers into the mouth, or rubbing the nose or eyes
Risk Factors of Measles:
- Being unvaccinated. If a person is haven’t been vaccinated for measles, there is much more likelihood of unimmunized children to get the disease.
- Traveling to different places. If you travel to such place where measles are generally common, a person is at higher risk of catching the disease.
- Deficiency of Vitamin A. If you don’t have sufficient vitamin A in your diet, you’re more likely to have more-severe symptoms and complications.
Prevention of Measles
Take the following precautions to protect your family and friends:
- Isolation. As measles are highly contagious from about four days before to four days after the rash breaks out, people with measles shouldn’t return to activities in which they interact with other people during this period.
- Vaccination. Vaccination prevents many cases of measles. Ensure that whoever is at risk of getting measles has been fully vaccinated. After having measles once, a person gains immunity for the rest of their life. They are very unlikely to contract measles a second time.
Myths Linked to Measles
Myth 1: Only children can get measles. Fact: Anyone can suffer from measles irrespective of their age Myth 2: As there are natural ways to prevent measles, I do not need vaccination. Fact: Measles cannot be prevented using any natural measures. Vaccination is the single most effective way to prevent any individual from contracting measles. Myth 3: You do not need to get a “booster” shot if you have already received the measles vaccine. Fact: A “booster” shot is not so much a “booster” as it is a fail-safe in case the first vaccine did not work. A second shot of the measles vaccine can be administered when a child is between 4 – 6 years old. Myth 4: You can get the measles multiple times, even if you’ve already had it. Fact: Not true. Unlike chicken pox, measles does not come back once the system is cleared of the virus.