Home Columns Asmau Ahmad on: Much Ado about Measles Virus

Asmau Ahmad on: Much Ado about Measles Virus

by hr

I have this neighbor who is very fond of me, everyday as I pass by he greets me from afar but when I greet back he couldn’t hear a word until he comes much closer. It is obvious he couldn’t hear well and is deaf, he tries using hearing aids.  One day we were having a conversation and I asked him if he was born that way, but he answered saying he wasn’t born like that but he had measles at a young age and it made him deaf.


Measles Virus is the main cause of Measles (also known as RUBEOLA) which mostly affects children but also occurs in adults less significantly. The virus is highly contagious and can spread through contact with infected mucus and saliva.  The virus can live on surfaces for several hours. As the infected particles enter the air and settle on surfaces, anyone within close proximity can become infected with the measles virus. The coughing or sneezing of an infected person can release the virus into the air.

Symptoms of measles generally appear within 14 days of exposure to the virus. Symptoms include:

  • cough
  • high fever
  • red and watery eyes
  • light sensitivity
  • muscle aches
  • runny nose
  • sore throat
  • white spots inside the mouth

A widespread skin rash is a classic sign of measles which are red and itchy bumps. This rash can last up to seven days and generally appears within the first three to five days of exposure to the virus. A measles rash commonly develops at the head and slowly spreads to other parts of the body. Other complications associated with measles may include:

  • ear infection which can cause deafness
  • bronchitis
  • miscarriage or preterm labor
  • decrease in blood platelets
  • blindness
  • severe diarrhea

The highly contagious virus is spread by coughing and sneezing, close personal contact or direct contact with infected nasal or throat secretions. The virus remains active and contagious in the air or on infected surfaces for up to 2 hours. It can be transmitted by an infected person from 4 days prior to the onset of the rash to 4 days after the rash erupts. Drinking from an infected person’s glass or sharing eating utensils with an infected person increases   risk of infection.

No specific antiviral treatment exists for measles virus. The virus and symptoms typically disappear within two to three weeks. However, your doctor may recommend:

  • Medication to relieve fever and muscle aches
  • rest to help boost your immune system
  • plenty of fluids (six to eight glasses of water a day)
  • humidifier to ease a cough and sore throat
  • vitamin A supplements

If a member contracts the measles virus, limit interaction with others. This includes staying home from school or work and avoiding social activities.

Routine measles vaccination for children combined with mass immunization campaigns in countries with high case and death rates are key public health strategies to reduce global measles deaths. The measles vaccine has been in use for 50 years. It is safe, effective and inexpensive. Immunizations can help prevent a measles outbreak. The MMR vaccine is a three-in-one vaccination that can protect you and your children from the measles, mumps, and rubella. Children can receive their first MMR vaccination at 12 months, and their second dose between the ages of 4 and 6. Adults who have never received an immunization can request the vaccine from their doctor.


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