The Measles is a very old disease extremely contagious and severe, caused by the virus of measles , which belongs to the paramyxovirus family. Measles belonged to the typical problems of infants, but more and more adolescents and adults may suffer from it. In both groups, the course of the disease is often more difficult to treat than in young children.
How measles is contracted and transmitted
It is transmitted mainly through droplets of saliva expelled when speaking, coughing and sneezing, during intimate personal contact or when there is direct contact with nasal or pharyngeal secretions that are infected. In this way, the virus infects the respiratory tract and later spreads to the rest of the body.
It is important to know that the virus can also be found in fomites , that is, surfaces or objects (handkerchiefs, clothing, door handles, etc.) that carry the virus and are capable of transmitting it. Measles can live outside an organism for up to two hours and can be transmitted by an infected individual from four days before to four days after the onset of symptoms.
Measles represents a major public health problem , especially in developing countries where there is no adequate vaccination plan, it is a disease that affects only humans and does not occur in animals.
Worldwide, this virus constitutes one of the main causes of death of young children and before the creation of the vaccine in 1963 it is estimated that about two million people died annually from this disease.
There are a set of risk factors that increase the chances of contracting this virus, among which we achieve:
- Unvaccinated children.
- Unvaccinated pregnant women.
- In general, anyone who is not vaccinated against the virus is likely to contract it.
- Population of developing countries (some regions of Africa, Asia and Latin America).
- Countries that have suffered natural disasters or are in conflict (Tsunamis, earthquakes, floods, wars, etc.).
These last two items are due to the lack of good sanitary control and adequate vaccination.
Symptoms and Signs of Measles
Measles has a very specific natural course of the disease, during the incubation period of the virus, there are usually no clinical manifestations, this period can last from one to two weeks.
Subsequently, the nonspecific symptoms of the virosis appear, the patient will present mild or moderate fever, runny nose or runny nose, cough, sore throat and pain in the eyes that sometimes may be due to conjunctivitis. Another pathognomonic sign of measles that is evident during this phase are Koplik’s spots, which are nothing more than small whitish spots that appear on the inside of the cheeks in the initial stages of this disease.
Followed by the period of acute illness and skin rash , during which small raised red dots appear on the skin, the erythema begins behind the ears, spreads to the face, neck, trunk and extremities in that order, it is not pruritic, it is say that it does not sting unlike other viruses such as chickenpox. The fever rises to 40 – 41 degrees Celsius and usually lasts 2 to 5 days. As it disappears, it also does so progressively, starting with the face, neck, trunk and extremities. In immunocompromised patients with a weak cellular response, the rash does not occur and usually presents with respiratory and gastrointestinal symptoms.
Finally we have the convalescence period , during which the patient does not present any symptoms other than the peeling of the skin.
It is important to note that there is a period of contagion, which can extend from five days before the clinical manifestations begin and five days after they disappear.
Simply put, the most common signs and symptoms of measles are:
- Dry cough;
- Anterior hyaline rhinorrhea or runny nose;
- Throat pain;
- Pain when swallowing;
- Eye pain;
- Koplik Manches;
- Characteristic skin rash.
Signs and symptoms of complications of said pathology can be added to the picture, such as ear pain when in the presence of acute otitis or infections in the ears that due to inflammation will cause pain in said organ.
Other complications of great importance are bronchitis or laryngitis, pneumonia, encephalitis and a decrease in the platelet count that could cause hemodynamic alterations.
Problems in the course of pregnancy are also frequent if they occur during this, causing pregnancy losses or preterm births, putting the life of the baby at risk.
For this reason, it is very important that you visit your doctor in case of presenting some of the aforementioned symptoms or if you suspect that you, your child or someone in your family has contracted Measles, to act in a timely manner and avoid possible complications.