Measles – Don’t Let Your Loved Ones Catch It!
“Tring, tring ,tring!” rang the phone bell, Ayesha picked it up. It was from Ali’s school. “How is he now?Is he getting better? When will he be joining the school?” and lots of other questions. She could hardly reply while weeping for her 6 years old child inflicted with fever, cough and rashes on his body.
Ali was suffering from measles, the disease which has become a permanent highlight of daily newspapers. “Measles” also called Morbilli is caused by paramyxovirus, which infects the respiratory system. It is highly contagious and spreads when the infectious fluid from nose and mouth (mucus and saliva) of an infected individual, directly or indirectly, comes into contact with a healthy person. After an asymptomatic incubation period which usually takes ten to twelve days from initial exposure, infection lasts from four days before the onset of rash until four days after it disappears.
Measles can be diagnosed on the basis of various signs and symptoms such as high grade fever up to 40 °C (104 °F) which usually lasts for four days, cough, runny nose, red eyes, poor appetite, maculopapular rash, erythematous rash (redness of the skin) and Koplik’s spots (seen inside the mouth). The measles rashes appear two to four days after the initial symptoms and last for up to eight days. Clinical diagnosis is made on the basis of observation of Koplik’s spots and history of high grade fever for at least three days. Current diagnostic laboratory tests of measles can be done with confirmation of positive measles IgM antibodies or isolation of measles virus RNA from respiratory specimens.
Measles can be sequel to various conditions ranging from less serious ones like diarrhea to more serious ones such as acute encephalitis. Some of them include ear infections, pneumonia and corneal ulceration. Complications are usually more severe in adults and if not treated, death can occur.
There is no specific treatment for measles. Most patients with uncomplicated measles will recover with rest and supportive medication such as pain killers (ibuprofen), antipyretics (paracetamol) and antitussives. Aspirin is not commonly used because of risk of Reye’s syndrome. Vitamin A supplements have been shown in some studies to prevent its complication.
In Pakistan two doses of Measles vaccine are given to children. The first dose is given at 9 months of age and the second dose at 15 months of age. For the second dose, MMR vaccine can be used instead of Measles vaccine. The MMR vaccine is a “3-in-1″ vaccine that protects against three serious diseases of childhood measles, mumps, and rubella. The second dose of Measles was recently added last year in the Extended Program on Immunization (EPI) of Pakistan.
To a person who has got measles, it is advised to drink orange or lemon juice at regular intervals during the day to prevent dehydration. A simple diet and avoiding spicy foods is recommended. Increased intake of fruits, fresh vegetables, and whole grain cereals, avoidance of coffee, soft drinks, oily and high fat content foods can help in smooth and uncomplicated recovery from the disease.
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