Rite Aid aims to keep you well. And one of the ways we help is by providing a way to avoid certain diseases, like measles. Measles (also known as rubeola) is a disease of the respiratory system and is the result of acquiring the measles virus. The virus typically grows in cells that line the back of the throat and lungs. It is one of the most contagious diseases known. Symptoms may include fever, cough, runny nose, and a rash all over the body. Complications of measles can include diarrhea, pneumonia, ear infections, encephalitis, and even death.
Measles is sometimes confused with other diseases that cause rashes like rubella (German measles) and roseola (roseola infantum).
How does Measles spread?
Measles is an extremely contagious disease. It can be spread to others from four days before, to four days after, the rash appears (measles is a disease of humans; the virus is not spread by any other animal species). It’s transmitted in the air via sneezing, coughing, even breathing. Measles is so infectious that if someone contracts it, 90% of the people around that person will also become infected, unless they are immune.
Measles virus is found in the mucus of the noses and throats of infected people. Tiny droplets spray into the air when they cough or sneeze. These airborne droplets can get into the throats and noses of others when they breathe. Or if a person touches an infected surface, then puts his/her finger in the mouth or nose. The virus can live on such contaminated surfaces for up to two hours. Measles is transmitted so readily that those without immunity will most likely contract it if they are near an infected person.
What are the symptoms of Measles?
The most prominent symptom of measles is a rash that covers the body. It also causes runny nose, fever, red, watery eyes, feeling run down, tiny white spots with bluish-white centers in the mouth and coughing.
What are the complications of Measles?
Three out of ten cases of measles develop further complications, like:
- Pneumonia: the complication most likely to result in the death of young children
- Ear infections: this complication happens in about 7% of measles cases and permanent hearing loss can result
- Diarrhea: occurs in about 8% of measles cases
When children contract measles, about 7% will also get an ear infection and up to 6% will get pneumonia. About one child out of every 1,000 who get measles will develop encephalitis (swelling of the brain) that can lead to convulsions, and can leave the child deaf or with intellectual disability, and one to two children out of every 1,000 will die. Adults who are not vaccinated can also get the disease. Children younger than five years old and adults 20 and over are in greater danger of complications from measles like pneumonia, as well as hospitalization and death than are school-aged kids and adolescents.
While measles has been nearly eradicated in the U.S., it still caused the death of approximately 164,000 people globally in 2008. Measles has been known to kill up to 25% of people living in developing countries due to malnutrition and vitamin A deficiency. Among children in Africa, it is the leading cause of blindness.
Measles illness during pregnancy results in a higher risk of premature labor, miscarriage, and low-birthweight infants.
How is Measles prevented?
The best way to prevent measles is to get the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine. It should be routinely administered to children ages 12-15 months old, and a second dose between 4 and 6 years old.