Measles cases go up: Are children at risk? Symptoms, precautions, vaccines and cure
The country, especially Mumbai, has seen an increase in the number of measles cases with an 8-month-old succumbing to the disease on November 24. A child specialist and neonatologist talks to us about how measles vaccines are a must for children, how it spreads, and more.
- The infection starts with high-grade fever along with severe rhinitis and conjunctivitis (red eyes) and eye discharge
- Fever resolves by the fourth day and a characteristic rash appears starting from the ears and face and then spreading to the trunk and abdomen
- Children younger than 5 years of age and the elderly population are especially vulnerable
India's financial capital, Mumbai, has seen a spike in cases of measles and the total number of cases on Wednesday (November 23) stood at 233. In Mumbai, according to Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), as many as 12 deaths have been reported this year, with an 8-month-old succumbing to the disease on Wednesday, being the latest tragic news on this front. Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say measles immunisation has dropped significantly since the coronavirus pandemic began, resulting in a record high of nearly 40 million children missing a vaccine dose last year. In a report issued Wednesday, the WHO and the CDC said millions of children were now susceptible to measles, among the world's most contagious diseases.
Talking to the media, Dr Vaidehi Dande, Child Specialist and Neonatologist at Symbiosis Hospital, Dadar, Mumbai, spoke about the disease, how it spreads, precautions to take and the importance of vaccination when it came to combating this disease.
What is measles and how does it spread?
It is a viral infection caused by Moribilivirus. It can infect only humans and spreads from human to human through close contact. The source of infection is nasal secretions and aerosols which are generated from the mouth while speaking, crying etc.
Signs and symptoms of measles
The infection starts with high-grade fever along with severe rhinitis and conjunctivitis (red eyes) and eye discharge. Fever resolves by the fourth day and a characteristic rash appears starting from the ears and face and then spreading to the trunk and abdomen. The rash gives a 'sandpaper-like' feel to the skin resolves in a few days and leaves behind dark spots on the skin which lighten over a period of a few months. Infection in itself is self-limiting but complications happen in up to 5% of those who get infected, complications are more common and more severe in unvaccinated children.
Which age group people are at high risk?
- Children younger than 5 years of age
- Pregnant women
- People with compromised immune systems, such as those having leukemia or HIV infection, and the elderly population
Importance of taking measles vaccines
Taking the measles vaccine is the best way to prevent measles. The vaccine is very effective in preventing the disease. The disease is milder and the complication rate is lower in vaccinated children who develop measles. It is initiated at 9 months with a booster at 15 months and 4-5 years. The vaccine is easily available and with minimal side effects. Usually, it is combined with mumps and rubella and sometimes chickenpox vaccine.
How long can an infected patient spread measles?
Four days before and four days after the onset of the rash.
Is it curable?
It is a self-limiting infection that is potentially life-threatening. There is no curative treatment, the treatment is supportive.
What preventative measures should be taken during an outbreak in your area?
Vaccination if not taken before: Ensure your child takes the MR vaccine during the MR vaccination campaigns organized by the government.
Isolate your child: Isolate them from other children during episodes of fever. Ensure personal hygiene and prevent close contact with infected persons.
What are the health complications of measles in kids and pregnant women?
- Middle-ear infections
- Brain infection/encephalitis which can lead to permanent hearing loss and epilepsy
- Diarrhea and malnutrition
- Reactivation of tuberculosis
- Slow viral disease after several years of infection