Exanthematous diseases: measles

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What is measles

It is a highly contagious infectious disease caused by a virus of the morbillivirus genus. It often affects children, in particular between 1 and 3 years, and for this it belongs to the group of so-called childhood diseases, such as rubella, chicken pox, whooping cough and mumps.

Symptoms of the disease

In the vast majority of cases, measles does not cause severe symptoms. The first to appear are similar to those of a cooling - dry cough, runny nose, red eyes (conjunctivitis) - with fever getting higher and higher.

The next step is the appearance of white flecks on the inside of the cheeks.

After 3-4 days, the feature finally appears rash (exanthema), characterized by red-brown spots that start from behind the ears and spread, within 2-3 days, to the face, neck, trunk and finally arms and legs. The rash lasts from a few days to a week, then gradually disappears starting from the ear and neck area. Sometimes, after the disappearance of the spots, a slight one remains for a few days peeling of the skin.

You should speak to your doctor as soon as you suspect your baby may have measles - he will advise you what to do and how to avoid spreading the infection to others. 5 PHOTOS

Measles in children: photos to recognize it

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In measles it is a childhood exanthematous disease caused by an airborne virus. It has no severe symptoms, mainly causes a rash, ...

How measles is diagnosed

Usually, for diagnosis clinical observation is enough. In doubtful cases, a blood test can be done to confirm or not the presence of antibodies to the virus (if there are any, it means that the disease is in progress).

How measles is transmitted

The measles virus is transmitted very easily by air, through the respiratory droplets that spread through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It can also be transmitted through contact with cutlery, plates, glasses, touched by sick people.

The possibility of infection begins 2-3 days before the rash, being maximum when fever is present, and lasts for 4-5 days after its disappearance. For this, the sick child should be kept home from school and away from people who could contract the disease.

How measles is treated

There is no specific therapy for measles, therefore treatment is for symptoms only. In particular, paracetamol or ibuprofen can be used to lower fever, eye drops to soothe eye discomfort and possibly cough syrups.

Antibiotics should only be used if complications appear.

For the duration of the disease, it is good keep the baby at rest and well hydrated (especially if measles is associated with diarrhea). If conjunctivitis is very annoying, in addition to eye drops, it can help to keep the environment dim.

Is it a serious illness? The possible complications

In the vast majority of cases, measles is not a serious disease. However, they can always appear complications that are relatively rare, but also potentially very dangerous. We recall in fact that measles remains responsible for approx 30-100 deaths per 100 people affected, and that every year more than 100 people die from this disease worldwide, especially children under 5 years of age.

In Del Paese, the last serious measles epidemic occurred in 2002: over 40 children were affected, with more than 600 hospitalizations and, unfortunately, 6 deaths.

The measles situation in Europe and in the country

2022 was a terrible year as regards the spread of measles in Europe: over 21 people became ill (5006 in Del Paese alone) and 35 died (4 in Del Paese). And 2022 also has its own significant burden of disease: according to the latest data from the Integrated Measles and Rubella Surveillance System, from January to September 2022 they occurred in our country 2295 cases of measles.

The main complications are due to bacterial superinfections and they are in particular diarrhea, otitis media, laryngitis, pneumonia or encephalitis, ie inflammation of the brain. Another possible complication is thrombocytopenia, that is, the reduction of platelets - the elements needed for clotting - in the blood. These complications are most often found in infants, malnourished children, or immunocompromised people whose immune systems are not functioning well.

Risks in pregnancy

If a pregnant woman contracts measles during pregnancy, her baby is at greater risk of being born premature or low weight.

How measles is prevented

Measles can be very effectively prevented through vaccination.

The measles vaccine exists in a combined form with the mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccines. The vaccination schedule provides for the administration of two doses of the vaccine: one at 12-15 months and one at about 5-6 years. If vaccination coverage is adequate - that is, above 95% of the population - measles stops circulating.

Since 2022 measles vaccine is one of them required by law. The vaccination schedule provides for the administration of two doses of the vaccine: one at 13-15 months and one at 6 years.The vaccine is effective in 98-99% of cases and immunity lasts a lifetime. Read also: Compulsory and voluntary vaccinations, the calendar

Since it is a so-called attenuated vaccine - that is, it contains live viruses, however harmless as possible - the vaccine is not recommended for people with immune system deficiencies and for pregnant women. In situations of risk, if contact with measles patients is possible, people who cannot be vaccinated may receive a immunoglobulin-based therapy which reduces the risk of infection.

Recall that a huge mass of studies conducted over the past 15 years has definitively shown that there is no correlation between the administration of the MMR vaccine and the risk of autism.

Sources for this article: VaccinarSì website, Epicentro website; In-depth page of the English Health Service; Focus page of the American Mayo Clinic; WebsiteMD; Atlanta Centers for Disease Control information page

For further information: all about exanthematous diseases

Updated on 12.11.2022

  • measles
  • exanthematous diseases
  • measles vaccination
  • vaccine mpr
  • 1-2 children years
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