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What is measles?

Measles is a contagious infection caused by a virus. Measles was once common, but because of immunization it is now fortunately becoming very rare.

How is measles spread?

Measles is spread very easily from person to person, when droplets of the virus are circulated through the air from an infected person coughing or sneezing. Another person then breathes in the virus and may become infected.

What are the symptoms of measles?

The symptoms of measles usually begin to develop about 7-11 days after the person first becomes infected. The first symptoms are normally similar to those of a bad cold: fever, runny nose, sore throat and a cough. A few days later a bright red, blotchy rash breaks out on the forehead, face and neck. Within a few days the rash spreads to the body, arms and legs, by which time the rash will begin to fade from the face. When the rash breaks out, you may also develop conjunctivitis.

Is measles contagious?

Yes, measles is highly contagious and before immunization was available it would cause epidemics in schools. Once you have had measles you will develop an immunity to it and will not contract it again.

How is measles treated?

As measles is a virus, there is no specific treatment to cure the infection. However, resting and drinking plenty of non-alcoholic fluid will help you to feel better. Your doctor and/or pharmacist will be able to recommend over the counter treatments to ease the symptoms of measles.

Do I need to see a doctor?

If you have measles you will need to visit your doctor, but ensure you tell the surgery when you phone that you or your child has suspected measles as they may send a doctor out to see you.

If after the initial diagnosis you have any of the following symptoms you should again consult your doctor:

  • A harsh cough.
  • Trouble staying awake.
  • Difficulty in hearing.
  • Pain in the ears.

What are the effects of measles?

Occasionally, measles can lead to many different complications, including pneumonia and ear infections. However, 1 child in a 1000 with measles will go on to develop encephalitis or meningitis, which can be fatal or cause disabilities such as deafness.

How can I prevent getting measles?

Measles is easily prevented by a vaccine A. The vaccine is normally given to babies between 12-15 months, along with a vaccine for mumps and German measles (known as M.M.R.). booster is then given before the child starts school.