Rashes with Fever and Red Bumps – Is Measles Still A Leading Cause of Death In Children?
Is your kiddo experiencing fever suddenly out of nowhere? Are there any white spots in the mouth and red spots on the skin? Then these can be signs of measles and your little one need medical attention. Let’s find out more about measles and whether or not it’s still a global endemic.
Measles or medically known as rubeola, is a viral infection that mainly affects the respiratory system of the body. The name comes from the virus rubeola which besides affecting the respiratory system can even spread to the nervous system affecting the core parts of the body.
Spreading of measles – Is it contagious?
The virus can be found everywhere in our surroundings and can reside on surfaces for several hours. It could be living in the infected person’s nose or respiratory tract, mucus and saliva and released in the air via sneezing or coughing. It can also spread by sharing infected person’s utensils. Measles is highly contagious and anyone within the close proximity can come in contact and get infected.
Why measles is still a devastating disease?
Measles is a fatal disease, and it can be serious enough for small children since they don’t have strong immune system. According to WHO, there were around 1.15 lakhs global deaths in the year 2014 and most of the fatalities occurred were under the age of 5. The disease killed more than 1.34 lakhs children in 2016 worldwide and over 54,500 cases were from South-East Asia. Measles and Rubella killed about 49,000 children in the same year.
However, over the years the numbers have significantly dropped especially in developing countries like India, due to awareness on vaccination. In India alone, there were over 30,000 cases of measles reported in 2015 which reduced to around 17,000 (60 percent of the South East Region) the following year. Through various campaigns, India is aims to eradicate this disease by the year 2020.
Symptoms and incubation period of measles
A person exposed to the virus will start experiencing symptoms within 14 days. Both adults and children have similar symptoms. The classic sign of measles is rashes that bring on red spots on the face and white spots inside the inner lining of the cheek also known as Koplik’s spots. Basically, the infection occurs sequentially.
- First 10-14 days after contacting the virus, a person would show no signs of measles
- Then a mild to moderate level of fever occurs, often accompanied by runny nose, persistent cough, light sensitivity, sore throat and inflamed eyes
- The mild illness which last 2-3 days is followed by rashes causing bright red bumpy spots. The rashes appear on the face first.
- The rashes then spread to arms and trunk and radiating to thighs and finally covering legs and feet. Simultaneously, there is sharp increase in fever, often upto 105 degree Fahrenheit.
- The rashes lasts upto 7 days gradually dropping off first from the face and then from thighs and feet.
If you suspect your child is exposed to measles, you must review your vaccination records and contact the doctor without delay.
Why children are at greater risk of contracting measles?
Measles primarily affects unvaccinated children, especially those that are under the age of 5. There are many parents who avoid vaccinating their children due to the fear of adverse effects. But in rarest of the rare cases, the vaccine can damage the brain, cause deafness and seizure. However, these incidences occur once in every million doses.
Deficiency of vitamin A, especially in children also increases the chances of catching the virus.
|Pertussis - How Severe is this Respiratory Infection?|
Complications of measles
Although most children recover from measles without showing any complications, but 1 out 15 children will develop complications such as:
- Eye infection
- Ear infection
- Miscarriage, preterm labor and low birth weight in pregnant women
- Decrease in the blood platelets
Rarely, measles can lead to encephalitis (inflammation of the brain). This occurs 1 in 1000 cases.
How is measles diagnosed?
The doctor usually diagnoses and confirms the disease by checking the signs and symptoms. Rashes on the skin and bluish-white spots on the bright red background inside the mouth are some of the classic signs of the presence of measles. If the doctor is unsure, he can confirm the disease through blood test.
Is measles medically treatable?
There is no way to treat the disease with medicines. Generally, the symptoms disappear within 2-3 weeks of the onset. However, the doctor might recommend:
- Acetaminophen to get respite from muscle aches and fever
- Lots of fluids, at least 7-8 glasses every day
- Rest to boost up the immune system
- Vitamin A supplements
- Humidifier to help relief cough and soreness in throat
- Antibiotics in case of pneumonia
- Immune serum globulin injection for pregnant women and infants
There are also some home remedies which you can offer to your children. If your child is facing trouble under bright light, get them sunglasses or dim the light to decrease intensity and reduce irritation. Get them some liquid, water or juice to sip.
Prevention – Vaccination schedule in India
Vaccination is the only way to prevent this disease from contracting and spreading it to others. By 2018, the country is expecting to reach the target of vaccinating 40 crore children which will eventually help achieve the target of elimination by the year 2020.
Usually, three in one MMR vaccine is given which prevents the children from measles, mumps and rubella. Here is the vaccination schedule for measles in India:
- First dose - At 9 months
- Second dose – At 15 months
- Third dose – Between 4-6 years
Side effects of immunization
Mostly, the vaccination doesn’t cause any side effects. However, in some cases children can experience mild fever for a few days.
The outlook for measles is positive and most healthy children and adults fully recover from the disease after contracting. However, the risk of getting complications remains high in children and adults who have weak immune system. A person cannot get the disease more than once. Once it affects a person, he or she gets lifetime immunity.