What do you know about measles?

Did you know that measles is normally passed through direct contact and through the air? 

Every quarter, our brilliant and knowledgeable infection control team design a display within the hospital about a particular issue. This time round, measles is the focus and here are some quick facts about the disease:

·       Although a safe and cost-effective vaccine is available, in 2018 there were more than 140 000 measles deaths globally – mostly among children under the age of five.

·       Measles vaccinations resulted in a 73% drop in measles deaths between 2000 and 2018 worldwide.

·       During 2000-2018, measles vaccination prevented an estimated 23.2 million deaths –making measles vaccine one of the best buys in public health.

Sam Marsh, our IPC Lead, explains more: “Measles is a serious disease. It’s highly contagious, caused by a virus in the paramyxovirus family that infects the respiratory tract and then spreads throughout the human body. Before the vaccine was introduced back in 1963, major epidemics occurred every two or three years, causing many deaths.

A high fever is usually the first sign, occurring about 10 to 12 days after exposure. Symptoms also include a runny nose, cough, red and watery eyes, and small white spots inside the cheeks. A rash erupts after several days, normally on the face and upper neck, that spreads over about three days, reaching the hands and feet. This lasts for five to six days, and then fades. 

“Most measles-related deaths are caused by complications associated with the disease. Serious complications are more common in children under five years or adults over the age of 30, but it is unvaccinated young children are at highest risk. Unvaccinated pregnant women are also at risk. Any non-immune person who has not been vaccinated – or was vaccinated but did not develop immunity – can become infected.”

Measles is one of the world’s most contagious diseases. The virus remains active and contagious in the air or on infected surfaces for up to two hours. 

“No specific antiviral treatment exists for the measles virus,” adds Sam. “Routine measles vaccinations for children are key public health strategies to reduce global measles deaths. It is often incorporated with rubella and/or mumps vaccines.”

So, there we have it – all about measles. Thanks to the infection control team for keeping us informed.