If you have been following the news lately, you will know that the USA is experiencing a measles outbreak. It all started in the Disneyland amusement park when a child with measles came into contact with many children whose parents had refused to have their children vaccinated. Measles is a horrible infection that is entirely preventable. There used to be about 500,000 cases of measles and 500 measles deaths each year in the United States. Thanks to a highly effective vaccine and high levels of immunization, measles became very rare; that is until recently.
Measles is caused by the rubeola virus. When someone who has the virus sneezes or coughs, tiny droplets containing the virus spray into the air. The droplets stay active for hours in the air, or on a surface. If your baby comes into contact with these droplets, she can become infected. She can also catch measles from having contact with the skin of someone who has the virus. Being in the same room for 15 minutes as someone who has measles, or having very brief face-to-face contact, is enough to transmit the virus. If your baby hasn’t been vaccinated, she is very likely to catch it if exposed. Nine out of 10 children in these circumstances catch measles.
Vaccinating all children is rarely possible, but maintaining vaccination coverage over 90% certainly is. Keep in mind that there will always be a few children in the community who will be susceptible because they cannot be vaccinated. For example, children who are too young to be vaccinated, and those with serious illnesses (cancers, immune diseases) that prevent them from being vaccinated. But as long as at least 90% of the children are vaccinated, those kids will also be protected from infections. Have a look at this site to understand how herd immunity works. So the bottom line is that when you vaccinate your children, you are not just protecting them, you are also protecting other families. This is good and the right thing to do for our community.
What are the symptoms of measles?
Once your baby has caught the measles virus, it can take about 10 days for her to show any symptoms.The first symptoms can include:
- a runny nose
- a high fever
- a severe cough
- sore, red, swollen eyes
- small, white spots inside the mouth
Three or four days after these symptoms appear, you will notice red spots behind your baby’s ears and on her face and neck. As the rash appears, her fever may rise. The spots will spread over her body and develop a bumpy texture. The rash may be itchy, and will last for about five days. As it fades, it will turn a brownish color and leave your child’s skin dry and flaky. Your baby will feel sick and tired, and have aches and pains in her muscles. Her cough may become severe, preventing sleep. In many cases, hospitalization is necessary and sadly, in some cases children die due to measles infection.