Measles, although once nearly wiped out in the U.S., is now seeing resurgence with cases popping up across the country.
What is it?
Measles is a very contagious virus that causes a rash all over your body. It’s so contagious that if one person has it, 90% of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected.
How does it spread?
It spreads through the air, especially when an infected person coughs, sneezes or shares food or drinks. The virus is contagious four days before the rash starts and then four days after it appears. If you’ve had measles, you cannot get it again.
What are the symptoms?
It usually takes seven to 18 days for a person to have symptoms. Measles starts with a cough, fever, red eyes, runny nose and sore throat. This is followed by a rash that spreads all over the body. According to the CDC, about three out of 10 people who get measles will develop at least one complication including pneumonia, ear infections or diarrhea. More serious complications include encephalitis (brain swelling) which can lead to death.
When to see a doctor?
Call your doctor if you think you have been exposed to measles or if you have symptoms. A measles vaccine can be administered within 72 hours after exposure and could provide some protection.
How is it treated?
Measles itself is a virus and cannot be treated with antibiotics. Associated conditions like fever and diarrhea can be treated with over-the-counter medications. Bacterial ear infections that accompany the measles virus can be treated with antibiotics. Patients with low levels of Vitamin A may suffer from a more severe case of measles so a doctor may recommend supplements to aid in recovery. It is also important to get plenty of rest and drink lots of fluids. Most people improve within two weeks.
How can you protect yourself from measles?
The measles vaccine protects against the illness. It is part of the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) and MMRV (measles, mumps, rubella and varicella [chickenpox]) vaccines.