There has been a recent outbreak of measles in Mumbai, especially between the ages of one to four years, when more than 90 percent of children are double vaccinated with the vaccine. There is research going on to find the answers. The authorities in the state have appealed citizens to vaccinate children between the age group of nine months to five years. But meanwhile, it is important to know how we can keep our children safe from measles. OnlyMyHealth editorial team spoke to Dr. Archana Bashir Khan, Pediatric Consultant, Masina Hospital, Mumbai, to know about the important preventive tips for patients to protect their children from measles.
What are measles and its symptoms?
Measles is a viral (morbillivirus) infection. It is characterized by high grade fever which appears approximately two weeks after the virus exposure, rash all over the body, redness and congestion in both the eyes, white spots inside the cheeks (kopliks spots), runny nose and moderate to severe cough. Fever may disappear one to two days after the rash comes up, but the child is still infected and spreads the virus even after the fever subsides.
Also read: Mumbai Measles Outbreak: Symptoms, Treatment, & More
How does it spread?
Measles is one of the most contagious diseases. It spreads by direct contact or by air droplets (talking, sneezing or coughing) from an infected child in the household, community or in healthcare settings. Simple activities like shaking hands, hugging, kissing or sharing eatables and drinks can spread the virus. Pregnant women can spread to the baby in the uterus also. Senior adults, immunocompromised people and non-vaccinated children are at the highest risk of contracting this infection.
It is important to know that the infected person can spread the virus four to five days before and after the rash. So the virus spreads even when one is unaware that he/she is infected.
Is measles dangerous?
Like any other viral disease, measles is self-remitting but can cause complications like pneumonia, convulsions, ear infections, encephalitis, loose motions and rarely death too.
How can we prevent measles from spreading in children?
- The best of prevention is MMR vaccination which the health care centers or your doctor will give. MMR vaccine is given at nine months, 15 months and at five years as per the recommendation of the Indian Academy of Paediatrics. Two doses of the vaccine are recommended to ensure immunity and prevent outbreaks. The first dose given at nine months may not develop enough immunity. If the child is already exposed to the virus, the vaccine cannot prevent the infection from happening.
- The mass measles immunization program held by the Indian government in 2020 had successfully covered more than 80% of children.
- An infected child should be isolated for at least five days after the appearance of a rash.
- One should take care to wash hands properly after coming in contact with an infected child, not sharing food or drinks, not kissing or hugging the infected person.
- The virus borne droplets stay in the room even after the infected person leaves the room for some time. One should be careful not to touch the things in the room till then. There is no specific treatment for measles.