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Measles can be serious

First Posted 10:22:00 03/29/2010

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THE MEASLES outbreak between January 1st and February 27th, 2010, which involved 17 villages and 742 cases left 4 unvaccinated chidren dead in Tondo and Quiapo, Manila. The other areas affected were Las Pinas City; Dasmariñas, Cavite; San Francisco town in Quezon Province; and Balabagan town in Lanao del Sur. Needless to say, these disasters, whose victims ranged from one to 9 years of age, could have been prevented by timely vaccination.

What is measles?

Measles is a highly contagious airborne disease caused by paramyxovirus and transmitted by virus-loaded droplets circulating in the air coming from an infected patient. One patient who can potentially

infect as many as 18 or more unvaccinated persons breathing in the contaminated air. Places that are congested and over-crowded spread the disease more readily.

What are the signs and symptoms of measles?

About 14 days after exposure to a patient with measles, the following start to show: flu-like

symptoms, fever (about 39C or 102.2F), general weakness and occasionally conjunctivitis (red eyes), sensitivity to light, barking cough, sore throat, and Koplik?s spots (grayish spots, the size of sand, appear in the mouth) just around the molar teeth, seen a day or two before the skin rash appears. The rash (clear red color) usually starts as small (2 mm) spots that double in size fast and joined together, initially around the ears and then in the body and legs. When the rash

appears, the fever may shoot up to 40C (104F) for a couple of days, and normalizes when the rash

disappears (leaving some brown spots). After 7 days, the child will feel well again. Children can return to school/childcare facilities ONLY after they have recovered and the temperature is normal.

When is measles contagious?

The patient with measles is contagious for about 9 days (starting 4 days before the rash appears and five days thereafter).

Is meales dangerous?

While measles is a viral infection that is self-limiting (generally leads to spontaneous full recovery), it can be serious, especially among those with weak

immune system, where complications are prone to develop. Among these complications are diarrhea, corneal ulceration causing corneal scarring and blurred vision, otitis media (ear infection) pneumonia and encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), meningitis (inflammation of the tent-like covering of the brain), the last three account for most of the deaths among patients with measles. Fortunately, the last two complications are not that common.

Can adults catch measles?

Yes, unvaccinated persons, who had never had measles, can get infected when exposed to a patient with measles. Measles is usually more dangerous to adults who catch the disease. My professor in medical school was vacationing in the United States when he caught measles, and died from its complication (pneumonia). Children usually breeze through measles, but it is wise and prudent for all children to have the MMR vaccination, which includes Measles-Mumps-Rubella (German Measles). Chicken Pox

vaccine is likewise essential for all children to have.

What was Ligtas Tigdas?

Ligtas Tigdas (?Safe from Measles?) was a national campaign launched by the Department of Health of the Philippines in early 2004 (the first such preventive program in the region), which vaccinated 18 million children between 9 months old to 8 years old using door-to-door vaccination service. This program

reduced the cases of measles in the country by 96 percent and the deaths from it by 99 percent. From June 2004 to December 2006, no measles were

reported, ?a historic first in the Philippines following the nationwide Ligtas Tigdas vaccination campaign.? Before that program, there were an estimated 6000 children in the Philippines who died from the

complications of measles, majority of them from poor households who had least access to public health. The impressive results of this DOH project convinced even the most skeptic that vaccination really did (and do) save lives.

When should the MMR be given?

For children, the first dose is given on or after the first birthday, and the second dose at age 4 to 6,

before the child enters kindergarten or primary school, or anytime after 28 days from the first does. For adults, at least one dose for those who never had MMR or the measles vaccine, and a second dose is recommended for those who are at higher risk of

exposure to, and catching, measles. The vaccine

confers up to 90 percent immunity against the virus. Children under one year of age, who are exposed to measles, must be given an immunity injection

WITHIN 5 days to ward of the disease

How can measles be prevented?

Vaccination is the best way to prevent measles, on top of a healthy lifestyle for the children to maximize their immunity and resistance to illnesses in general. The other is to avoid exposure to patients with measles. Children who had measles will never catch the disease again, ever, because infection with measles confers a lifelong immunity to it.

Can measles occur during pregnancy?

Yes, measles can infect women during their

pregnancy, if they had never had measles before or never had been vaccinated against measles in the past. While measles during pregnancy does not cause any congenital anomaly, it can infect and kill the

unborn, It is best for pregnant women to have measles vaccination unless they already had measles as children. If unsure, consult your physician for

possible MMR vaccination.

What?s the home treatment for measles?

Basically, this is limited to the management of the symptoms, tiredness with bed rest, fever with

acetaminophen (like paracetamol or Tylenol) and cough syrup prescribed by your physician, and a lot of fluids to prevent dehydration. Aspirin is not recommended for children as they can be dangerous for them. Children usually tolerate measles well, but if the fever persists for more than 4 days, or if the child has shortness of breath or if there is any doubt at all, urgent medical consultation is recommended.

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