Friday, February 28, 2020

What Causes Measles? Investigating This Re-Emerging Disease


Like many illnesses, measles is caused by a virus. It’s also incredibly contagious. Boston Children’s Hospital explains the morbillivirus that causes it can spread through direct contact, but also through the air if an infected individual sneezes or coughs.

Once the disease takes hold, symptoms can range from run of the mill to more extreme. Some of the most commons signs of measles are:

• Fever
• Cough
• Runny nose
• Sore throat
• Koplik’s spots—small white spots that are often found inside the mouth
• Rash—typically starts from the head and spreads to the rest of the body

It’s worth noting that a sick patient can spread measles without even noticing symptoms. In fact, most people won’t realize anything is amiss until long after they’ve contracted the disease. Symptoms typically begin 10 to 14 days after exposure.


The short answer is yes. It’s especially concerning for very young children. Complications can be severe, even resulting in hospitalization or worse. The World Health Organization (WHO) actually lists measles as one of the most deadly childhood diseases.

Measles is less of a concern for adults, because most of them have received the MMR vaccine series. These immunizations, which protect against measles, mumps, and rubella, work incredibly well. According to the CDC, two doses of the MMR vaccine are 97 percent effective at preventing measles. The first dose alone is 93 percent effective.

Children who are less than a year old are naturally at a disadvantage if exposed. The recommended age for babies to receive their first vaccine is 12 to 15 months. Health experts explain that babies retain passive immunity from their mothers after birth, which can prevent them from effectively responding to vaccination.

That said, it’s possible to vaccinate children earlier if needed. Parents living in, or traveling to, an area where there’s a known outbreak should consult their pediatrician. Obtaining an earlier dose may be advisable, but it’s essential to re-vaccinate again once the child is at least 12 months old to ensure the best protection. Also be aware that insurance plans may not cover the cost for babies who receive the MMR vaccine early.

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