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Measles is an extremely contagious disease caused by a virus in the paramyxovirus family. It is highly infectious that if someone is infected, the airborne droplets let off can infect up to 18 people. Measles is one of the top causes of death in children in the Philippines which is preventable through proper nutrition and vaccination. There is another disease called, German measles which is often mistaken for measles but is actually an entirely different disease caused by rubella or rubeola.


Signs and symptoms

The disease is usually first characterized by high fever which starts about 10 to 12 days after getting in contact with the virus and may last from four to seven days. Watery eyes, conjunctivitis (pink eye), sore throat, cough and a runny nose may develop during the initial stage. Then, a red-brown rash develops on the face or upper neck then eventually spreads throughout the entire body down to the hands and feet. The rash lasts for up to 6 days then starts to disappear. The rash occurs at an average of two weeks after exposure to the virus.

Causes, risk factors, and possible complications

Malnourished and unvaccinated children without access to healthcare have the highest risk of developing measles and its complications, including death. Complications include blindness, diarrhea, ear infections, pneumonia and encephalitis (infection which causes brain swelling). Complications are usually evident in children under the age of five and adults over 20 years old.

In the Philippines, measles cases usually increases during the summer months. In the first quarter of 2010, the Department of Health recorded 878 cases which is a 20% increase from the recorded cases the previous year, and registered 6 deaths from January to February of 2010.

Diagnosis and tests

A suspect case of measles is easily confirmed through quick laboratory confirmation and the result should satisfy at least one of the following criteria:

  • Positive serologic test result for anti-measles IgM antibodies
  • Four-fold rise in anti-measles IgM antibodies in severe serum
  • Isolation of the measles virus
  • Dot immunobinding assay
  • Polymerase chain reaction testing for measles nucleic acid

Prevention and treatment

There is no known treatment for measles. However it is easily prevented through immunization of children between nine months to less than eight years of age. Doctors may prescribe paracetamol to help with the fever. Two vaccine dosages are recommended to guarantee full immunity and about 15 percent of children vaccinated develop full immunity after the first dose. Everyone who recovers from measles have full immunity.

Scheduled vaccinations of children combined with the Department of Health ’s mass immunization campaigns like “Ligtas Tigdas” (Safe from Measles) which target immunization of marginalized children between 9 to 11 months old. It is recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) that children in developing countries diagnosed with measles should be administered two dosages of vitamin A supplements given 24 hours apart. This measure helps prevent blindness and eye damage plus it can lower the number of deaths by 50 percent. In cases of severe complications, access to supportive healthcare, antibiotics, and nutritionally dense food are a must to speed up recovery.

External references