Skin | Allergy & Immunology | Measles (Disease)


Measles is a childhood infection caused by a virus. Once quite common, measles can now be prevented with a vaccine. Signs and symptoms of measles include cough, runny nose, inflamed eyes, sore throat, fever and a red, blotchy skin rash.

Also called rubeola, measles can be serious and even fatal for small children. While death rates have been falling worldwide as more children receive the measles vaccine, the disease still kills several hundred thousand people a year, most under the age of 5.

Causes and Risk factors

Measles is caused by the measles virus, a single-stranded, negative-sense enveloped RNA virus of the genus Morbillivirus within the family Paramyxoviridae. Humans are the natural hosts of the virus; no animal reservoirs are known to exist. This highly contagious virus is spread by coughing and sneezing via close personal contact or direct contact with secretions.

Risk factors for measles virus infection include the following: (1) Children with immunodeficiency due to HIV or AIDS, leukemia, alkylating agents, or corticosteroid therapy, regardless of immunization status; (2) Travel to areas where measles is endemic or contact with travelers to endemic areas; (3) Infants who lose passive antibody before the age of routine immunization.

Risk factors for severe measles and its complications include the following: malnutrition, underlying immunodeficiency, pregnancy, vitamin A deficiency.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Clinical diagnosis of measles requires a history of fever of at least three days, with at least one of the three Cs (cough, coryza, conjunctivitis). Observation of Kopliks spots is also diagnostic of measles.

There is no specific treatment for measles. Most patients with uncomplicated measles will recover with rest and supportive treatment. It is, however, important to seek medical advice if the patient becomes more unwell, as they may be developing complications. ...

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