Measles is a highly contagious disease that can be fatal. It is caused by the measles virus, which spreads through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The virus may also spread if you come in contact with someone who has measles and has touched something like a door knob, doorknob, or shopping cart handle. Symptoms of measles include fever, runny nose, dry cough, red eyes (conjunctivitis), sore throat and small white spots inside the mouth known as Koplik’s spots. A red, blotchy rash appears on the face and spreads to the rest of the body. Measles can be prevented by getting vaccinated.
Vaccination against measles
There are two types of measles vaccine: MMR (mumps, measles, rubella) and MMRV (mumps, measles, rubella, varicella). The MMR vaccine is given as a shot and the MMRV vaccine is given as a shot or as a nasal spray. Most children receive their first dose of measles vaccine at 12 to 15 months old and their second dose at four to six years old. Adults who have never been vaccinated against measles should get two doses of the MMR vaccine separated by 28 days. Pregnant women should also get vaccinated against measles if they have never had it or have not been vaccinated against measles in the past.
What should unvaccinated patients do?
Unvaccinated adults who are exposed to measles should receive an injection of gamma globulin as soon as possible after exposure, but no later than six days. This will help prevent the development of full-blown disease if they become infected with the virus. They can also reduce their risk of developing a mild illness by taking antibiotics within 72 hours after being exposed to someone with measles.
Prevention and treatment for those already infected
There is no specific antiviral drug that has proven effective against measles infections, but treating symptoms may reduce discomfort until recovery occurs on its own. The most important thing you can do when you feel sick is rest and drink lots of fluids so you don’t become dehydrated. Other home remedies that may help relieve symptoms include taking over-the-counter pain relievers, using saline nose drops or a cool mist vaporizer to reduce irritation in the nasal passages and throat, applying calamine lotion to rashes for relief from itching and wearing sunglasses indoors because light makes eyes more sensitive to pain.