By Sofia C. Pablos Aguirre
Measles: everyone has heard about them, but hardly anyone has had them. Many people seem to think that measles are a thing of the past, a disease long ago eradicated. For a time, that statement held true. But unfortunately, that is not the case today. The measles is still a threat, even in the United States.
The summer is fast approaching, and with that comes traveling. For some, traveling would involve going out of the country. There are always health risks involved when people travel, and they vary from place to place. This summer, however, is especially important in regards to the spread of measles.
The CDC has issued precautionary statements for Americans who are choosing to travel to Europe this summer. The Olympics in London and the Euro 2012 soccer cup in Poland and Ukraine is slated to draw many American tourists. “"Disease knows no borders," said Rebecca Martin, director of the CDC's Global Immunization Division."We are concerned about Americans coming back from the Olympics this summer and unknowingly infecting others (USA Today)." Being that the incidences of measles are considerably more prevalent in Europe, the risk of infection is much higher. As such, it is important for people to be up-to-date with their vaccines. There was also an outbreak of measles after the Super Bowl in February. 13 cases were reported after the Super Bowl (Huffington Post), which confirms how easily the disease can be spread.
Part of the reason as to why there is still the risk of infection with the measles is because of a certain percentage of people who choose not to receive the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine, whether it be for personal, religious or other reasons. Some people choose not to become vaccinated because they feel as though there are so many other people vaccinated, that they can be protected from the disease. There was also the claim that the MMR vaccine was linked to autism, which many studies have stoutly refuted.
Here is what you should know about the measles.
What are the measles?
The measles is an extremely contagious disease that is spread by a virus, and causes a total-body skin rash and flu-like symptoms.
How are measles spread?
Measles is spread via contact with an infected person, usually with droplets from the infected person’s nose, mouth, or throat. Coughing and sneezing are two ways in which the disease can be put into the air.
What are the symptoms of measles?
Measles have an incubation period of about a week, and symptoms begin to show anywhere from 8 to 12 days after a person has been infected. Symptoms may include bloodshot eyes, conjunctivitis, runny nose, sore throat, cough, fever, and muscle pain. Other symptoms that can occur are light sensitivity, white spots inside the mouth (Koplik’s spots), and rash. The rash usually appears 3 to 5 days after the first signs of being ill, and can last from 4 to 7 days. The rash usually begins on the head and spreads downward on the body. The rash may appear as flat, discolored areas, or as solid red raised areas that later join together. It can also itch.
Complications can occur while infected with the measles. These complications may include Bronchitis, Encephalitis (swelling of the brain), ear infection, and pneumonia.
How can the measles be treated?
While there is no specific treatment for measles, there are some things you can do to relieve the discomfort. However, Acetaminophen, bed rest and humidified air may help relieve some of the symptoms.
How can I keep from contracting measles?
The key in prevention is vaccination. The MMR vaccine protects against measles, mumps and rubella. Not having the vaccine can lead to an outbreak of measles, mumps and rubella, all of which are serious childhood diseases. Those who are not vaccinated, or have not completed the immunization process are at high risk for contracting measles. Also, “taking serum immune globulin 6 days after being exposed to the virus can also reduce the risk of developing measles, or make the disease less severe.”
What if I do become infected with measles?
Usually, those who contract the measles can recover well, bearing in mind that there are no complications while infected.
So what do we at UHS recommend for you? University Health Services recommends that all students receive the full dose of the MMR vaccine, as well as keeping abreast of any developments regarding the spread of the virus, both in the US and abroad. If you or someone you know has come into contact with a person infected with measles, consult a physician as soon as possible to determine the appropriate treatment.