Rite Aid aims to keep you well. And one of the ways we help is by providing a way to avoid certain diseases, like measles. Measles (also known as rubeola) is a disease of the respiratory system and is caused by the measles virus. The virus typically grows in cells that line the back of the throat and lungs. It is one of the most contagious diseases known. Symptoms may include fever, cough, runny nose, and a rash all over the body. Complications of measles can include diarrhea, pneumonia, ear infections, encephalitis, and even death.
The CDC recently reported that in 2018, after only 8 months, the number of reported measles cases is already close to exceeding the total number reported in 2017. While this is far from an outbreak (the number of reported cases in 2018 is similar to recent years, and is in the expected range), it is a good reminder to make sure you and your loved ones are protected.
Measles is sometimes confused with other diseases that cause rashes like rubella (German measles) and roseola (roseola infantum).
Measles is an extremely contagious disease of humans. It is not spread by any other animal species. It’s transmitted in the air via sneezing, coughing, even breathing. A person can spread measles from four days prior to rash onset to four days after the rash appears. Measles is so infectious that if someone contracts it, 90% of the people around that person will also become infected, unless they are immune.
Measles virus is found in the mucus of the noses and throats of infected people. Tiny droplets spray into the air when they cough or sneeze. These airborne droplets can get into the throats and noses of others when they breathe. Or if a person touches an infected surface, then puts his/her finger in the mouth or nose. The virus can live on such contaminated surfaces for up to two hours.
The most prominent symptom of measles is a rash that covers the body. It also causes runny nose, fever, red, watery eyes, feeling run down, tiny white spots with bluish-white centers in the mouth and coughing.
Children younger than 5 years of age and adults 20 years and over are in greater danger of complications from measles than school-aged kids and adolescents.
Common complications of measles include diarrhea and ear infections, some resulting in permanent hearing loss. More serious complications include pneumonia and encephalitis (swelling of the brain). Pneumonia is the most common cause of death from measles in young children. It occurs in 1 out of every 20 children with measles. About 1 child out of every 1,000 who get measles will develop encephalitis that can lead to convulsions, and can leave the child deaf or with intellectual disability. One to two children out of every thousand with measles will die.
While measles has been nearly eradicated in the U.S., it still caused the death of 134,200 people globally in 2015. The risk of death due to measles complications is much greater in developing countries due to malnutrition, vitamin A deficiency and inadequate health care. Among children in Africa, it is the leading cause of blindness.
Measles illness during pregnancy results in a higher risk of premature labor, miscarriage, and low-birth-weight infants.
The best way to prevent measles is to get the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine. The first dose should be routinely administered to children ages 12-15 months old, and a second dose between 4 and 6 years old.