The disease: Also known as morbilli and rubeola, measles is an airborne disease spread through coughs, sneezes, saliva, or nasal secretions of people already infected to those not immunized. Nine out of 10 people who are not immune will catch it. Human beings are the virus’s only hosts; no other species can get it.
Symptoms: Develop 10 to 12 days after exposure to infected person and last seven to 10 days. Four-day fevers often run higher than 104 F, accompanied by cough, runny nose, or red eyes. Characteristic red measles rash covers most of the body; it starts at the back of the ears, head, and neck. Lasts up to eight days, changes color to brown before disappearing.
Complications: Range from mild (diarrhea) to serious (pneumonia). Rare cases include panencephalitis, which usually is fatal, and encephalitis. The risks are higher for patients with malnutrition, HIV, AIDs, or leukemia
Treatment: Rest and supportive care in vast majority of cases. Antibiotics are introduced for complications. Otherwise, ibuprofen or paracetamol reduce fever and pain. Aspirin is not recommended for children under 16.
Prevention: Measles vaccine highly effective. Children should be immunized at 12 months as part of MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) series. The booster dose is usually given at ages 4 or 5. Adverse vaccination reactions are rare; fever or pain at injection site are most common.
History: Virus isolated in 1954 in United States. To date, 21 measles strains have been identified. Maurice Hilleman of Merck developed the first successful vaccine in 1963. No specific drug treatment for measles approved yet.