Measles is back and has infected and killed a large population of persons already for 2019. Worldwide, over 400,000 persons has been diagnosed with measles have been this year with the majority of the cases being in the African Region. The numbers are still rising.
It has been more than 25 years since the Caribbean reported its last cases of measles. With the Caribbean having a very active tourism industry, the risk of measles being introduced into the region again is quite high. Luckily, the Measles, Mumps and Rubella vaccine (MMR) given in all Caribbean countries routinely in childhood, ensures that most of its residents are well protected against the disease.
The virus is self-limiting and most people recover well on their own, but in others, measles can cause life-long disability, life threatening complications and even death.
Measles is a highly contagious and infectious disease caused by the measles virus and though it mainly affects children, it can affect anyone at any age. Signs and Symptoms present 7 to 14 days after an encounter with an infected person. Persons are contagious from as early as 1-2 days before the onset of symptoms. Measles spreads easily through airborne secretions from cough and sneeze of infected persons. It may also be spread through direct contact with these secretions.
Signs and Symptoms
The first sign of measles is usually a high fever that typically lasts 4 to 7 days. Followed by cough, watery eyes and runny nose.
Other symptoms include:
· Tiny, white spots in mouth (appears on days 2-3) – known as Koplik Spots
· Rash (appears on days 3-5) – begins from the face and hairline and spreads down the body
· Loss of appetite
· Muscle aches
· Swelling around eyes
· Sore throat
The MMR vaccine protects against Measles. This 1st booster is routinely given at 12 months old and the 2nd booster iis given at 3-5 years old. It is available to all.
Like most viruses, the treatment is supportive. That is, ensuring that the child gets sufficient rest and hydration as well as managing symptoms as their occur. This may include:
Acetaminophen (Panadol/Tylenol/Paracetamol) for pain and fever
Humidifier to assist with nasal congestion, cough and sore throat
Adequate fluid intake and healthy meals
Vitamin A supplement in severe cases
Antibiotics are not needed with the virus. However any infection that develop such as pneumonia, should be treated with antibiotics.