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Measles is a relatively serious disease that is most well known for the characteristic rash that is in effect only the symptomatic outside feature of the disease.  In fact, measles is an infection of the respiratory tract that is cause by a virus that occurs all over the world.  According to the Mayo Clinic there are between thirty and forty million cases of measles all over the world each year and that these infections result in some one million deaths annually.  This is all despite the fact that measles can easily be prevented by the use of the vaccine for it.  Finally, it is important that one not confuse measles with german measles as German Measles, also known as rubella, is a different disease.

The purpose of this article is to generally look at some of the basic health information surrounding a disease known variously as measles, rubeola.  As always, this article should not be considered to be a substitute for information directly from a qualified, trained and certified licensed health care professional such as your family physician.  What this article can do, however, is provide a basic starting point for looking at some of the signs, symptoms and treatment options for rubella as well as a look at the currently used vaccine that to this day effectively prevents measles infections.

Identifying Measles

The symptoms of measles do not immediately manifest themselves after an individual has been infected by the virus that causes measles.  In fact it is generally not until ten or twelve days after this infection that these symptoms are present in order to identify an individual as having been infected by measles.  The signs and symptoms of measles include some of the more characteristic symptoms as well as ones that might not otherwise as readily come to mind.  So, if an individual has measles they may have a skin rash of large blotches on the skin, as well as tiny red spots with blue-white centres in the mouth and these are known as Koplik’s spots.  In addition to these more notable symptoms there is also often the presence of a fever, runny nose, a cough (usually dry) and conjunctivitis, which is an inflammation of the eyes.

Measles Vaccine

There is currently a very effective vaccine available for the treatment of measles that has reduced the amount of cases of measles in the United States of America by more than ninety-nine percent.  Most often given in conjunction with an inoculation to mumps and rubella, along with measles this inoculation is known as MMR.  This vaccine, as with most vaccines, functions by injecting a weakened version of the disease into the individual who is receiving the vaccination.  The body then is able to fight off this minor infection without the seriousness of full blown measles developing.  The end result is that the body will then have the correct antibodies to fight of measles if the individual in question come into contact with measles again later in life.  The vaccine is given to children in the first part of their second year of life as the first dose and then again between the ages of four and six, prior to them entering school. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, it is unnecessary to receive the vaccine if you have already been vaccinated, if you have had blood tests proving immunity to measles, or if you are a man born before 1957 or a woman born before 1957 who is no longer planning on having children.  The vaccine is not recommended for pregnant or soon to be pregnant women, or for people who have a serious allergy to gelatine or the antibiotic neomycin.  If you have yet to become vaccinated for measles and are a woman, who is not pregnant and of childbearing age, attend a school, or work in a related education or medical facility or plan on travelling, it is recommended that you become vaccinated.  Finally, it is always important that before making any decisions about whether you should or should not be vaccinated for measles that you contact a certified and licensed health care professional such as your family doctor.

The vaccine does have some side effects that can potentially, though extremely rarely occur. These side effects may include a fever within two weeks of receiving the vaccination, and some people may experience a mild rash that occurs.  An allergic reaction to the vaccine is extremely rare, and on the whole the MMR vaccine is considered to be very safe for use.

Treating Measles

Given that measles is caused by a virus there is no means of effectively treating a measles infection.  Should you have contracted measles and are prescribed any medications, the purpose of these medications is not to treat the measles, but rather, to bring the symptoms associated with measles under control in order to make the disease less troublesome.  Measles can be very serious for those with weakened immune systems and may require the injection of antibodies in order to help the body fight off the disease.  Antibiotics are generally only prescribed for individuals who have measles if there is a bacterial infection that is opportunistically caused either as a result of the symptoms of measles or as a result of having a weakened immune system.  Other possible treatments for the symptoms include over the counter analgesics or other forms of anti-inflammatory pharmaceuticals to deal with the fever.  One social aspect of the treatment of measles is that those individuals who are infected should be isolated from others.  The main reason for this is that measles is a very contagious disease and in order to prevent its spread to nonimmunized people everything that is necessary should be done in order to ensure that those who are infected do not come into contact with anyone who is nonimmunized as they risk spreading the disease.

The course of the disease as it progresses is that there is a fever with associate symptoms followed by the appearance of Koplik’s spots, which confirm that the infection is indeed measles.  Afterwards the rash appears, starting on the face and spreading down the body, disappearing after approximately one week.