Measles Outbreak: How to Protect You and Your Children From This Viral Infection

Tania Tarafdar

From Ebola to dengue, it seems like there is always a disease that has the general public worried about their health. Measles is the latest illness that has got the world in a tizzy. Recently, a teenage girl from New Zealand sick with measles visited Disneyland and other tourist spots across California, possibly infecting others. Another flight attendant died from measles after taking a transatlantic flight from New York to Israel. Measles is clearly making a comeback. Here's everything you need to know about how you can protect yourself and the people you love from the disease.

Also Read | Chain-Smokers Take Note! Quit Smoking to Cut Heart Disease Risk

What Are The Symptoms of Measles?

Measles is an infectious, viral disease which spreads through respiration. The symptoms of the disease last about seven to ten days and are characterised by cough, inflammation of the eyes, runny nose and rashes that develop in the head and spread to the rest of the body. Sometimes the rashes are also accompanied by fever, diarrhoea, and sensitivity to light.

Can Measles Have Life-Threatening Complications?

Unfortunately, measles can have complications like pneumonia and middle ear infection. In the past, many children have died of measles encephalitis, which is an inflammation in the brain. According to statistics, measles and its complications killed 400 to 500 children every year.

Also Read | Amitabh Bachchan Reveals He's Surviving on 25% of His Liver; Here's How You Can Live on a Quarter of Your Liver

How Does Measles Get Transmitted?

Just like influenza, measles spread by the respiratory route but it requires one to be within three feet of another to transmit the infection. Measles is so highly infectious that you can catch the infection even if you walk in a room after an infectious person has walked out of the room.  It will take you just a day to exhibit the symptoms. You are more susceptible to the disease if you have never had measles or never been vaccinated. Is increasing temperature raising childhood viral infection rates?

What Should You Do To Prevent Measles?

The vaccines for measles are extremely effective. Developed in the mid-to late-1960s, doctors now use it combined with mumps and rubella vaccine. Babies need to get the first shot at 12 to 15 months, then another at four to six years old. Your children are going to be protected for life if they are given the two doses of vaccines. Some children get a degree of fever or a bit of a transient rash, but it’s an incredibly safe and very effective vaccine.

How Susceptible Are You To Measles?

If you were born after 1990 and were vaccinated as a kid, you should be safe. Inoculated people born earlier may need to be revaccinated; that was the year the recommended dose was doubled to bolster protection. If you were never inoculated you can get two doses of the MMR.

Why Is Measles Making a Comeback?

US eliminated measles in 2000, but now it’s back with a vengeance as children miss vaccination doses. Childhood vaccination rates are dropping because some parents believe – even though it's been disproven – that vaccines are linked to autism. That puts the entire population at higher risk, because the more unvaccinated people there are, the more opportunities for a disease to spread.

From the recent Disneyland case, we can conclude that some likely children were infected during that outbreak who then went home to their towns, creating satellite outbreaks around the country. It is, therefore, important to educate parents about vaccinations so that the disease does not make a comeback in the future.