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How Measles Can Kill: Symptoms & Treatment For Disease

Update Date: Apr 28, 2016 04:20 AM EDT

Measles, also known as rubeola, is a highly contagious disease caused by a type of virus that mostly affects children. In spite of availability of effective vaccine, measles remains to be one of the leading causes of death in young children worldwide.

Measles is caused by a virus that belongs to paramyxovirus family. The virus generally spreads from one person to another through coughing or sneezing or through direct contact with phlegm or sputum of the infected individual, noted CDC. The virus is capable of being viable in air for about one to two hours and could be transmitted from the infected person four days prior to the onset of rash and four days after the symptoms subside.

High fever is the first sign of infection that begins after 10 to 12 days of exposure to the virus and last up to four to seven days. Cough, runny nose, small white patches on the cheeks and red and watery eyes are the early symptoms of measles. Few days after the appearance of initial symptoms, a rash erupts on the face or upper neck. The rashes then spread from head to toe in three days and last up to five to six days.

"Most measles-related deaths are caused by complications associated with the disease. Complications are more common in children under the age of 5, or adults over the age of 20.The most serious complications include blindness, encephalitis (an infection that causes brain swelling), severe diarrhea and related dehydration, ear infections, or severe respiratory infections such as pneumonia," reports WHO.

Children aged below five that hasn't had vaccination are at increased risk of the disease. Unvaccinated people of any age group and those that haven't developed immunity against the disease following vaccination can acquire the infection. The high risk population also includes unvaccinated pregnant women.

"Severe complications from measles can be avoided through supportive care that ensures good nutrition, adequate fluid intake and treatment of dehydration with WHO-recommended oral rehydration solution. Antibiotics should be prescribed to treat eye and ear infections, and pneumonia. All children in developing countries diagnosed with measles should receive two doses of vitamin A supplements, given 24 hours apart," noted WHO on treatment option for measles.

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