Introduction to Measles

Measles, or rubeola, affects the respiratory system and is a viral infection. The measles virus causes this highly contagious disease, spreading easily through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. People of all ages can be affected by this disease. It is most common in children, especially those who have not received vaccination.


What is Measles?

This disease shows symptoms like → fever, cough, runny nose, red eyes, and a distinct red rash. Which begins on the face and spreads to the rest of the body. Severe complications of the disease include pneumonia (a lung infection), encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), and even death. It used to be a common childhood illness and a significant cause of death in children worldwide before they introduced the measles vaccine. However, the vaccine has significantly reduced the number of disease cases and deaths.

Measles is a Highly Contagious Viral Disease

This disease spreads easily, and it stays in the air and on surfaces for hours. Someone with this disease can pass it to others starting four days before the rash appears and continuing four days after. The virus spreads through respiratory droplets when someone coughs or sneezes. In fact, humans can easily catch measles, which is known as one of the most contagious diseases. The disease can infect up to 18 people who haven’t been vaccinated if one person has it. This high level of contagiousness is why getting vaccinated against measles is crucial. It helps create herd immunity and protects those who can’t receive the vaccine for medical reasons.

In the next section, we will discuss the causes and transmission of the disease:

Causes and Transmission of Measles

The measles virus causes a highly contagious viral infection known as measles. When an infected person talks, coughs, or sneezes. They transmit the virus through respiratory secretions. This disease is one of the most contagious infectious diseases. Which spreads rapidly from person to person, especially in densely populated areas with low vaccination rates. Measles outbreaks can happen worldwide, but they are most prevalent in developing countries with low vaccination rates.

The Measles Virus and its Characteristics

The measles virus belongs to the family of Paramyxoviruses (a type of virus with a single-stranded RNA genome). It has a characteristic appearance under the electron microscope, with a spherical shape and a diameter of about 120-200 nm. The virus is very stable and can survive for up to two hours in the air and on contaminated surfaces. It is also resistant to many disinfectants.

People typically experience symptoms of the disease approximately 10-14 days after being exposed to the virus. These symptoms include → fever, cough, runny nose, red eyes, and a distinctive rash. Which extends from the face to other parts of the body. In severe cases, measles may cause complications such as → pneumonia, encephalitis, or even death.

How the Virus is Transmitted

This disease primarily spreads through airborne droplets. When an infected person talks, coughs, or sneezes, they release these droplets. The droplets can travel up to six feet and can remain suspended in the air for several hours. Contact with contaminated surfaces can also spread measles, as the virus can survive on surfaces for up to two hours.

Once the virus enters your body, it replicates in your respiratory tract and spreads throughout your body via the bloodstream. Even before symptoms appear, an infected person can transmit the virus to others. Which makes it difficult to control its spread. To prevent measles, vaccination is the most effective approach. It is recommended for all children and adults who have not been vaccinated or have not had the disease before.

Now we will discuss the symptoms and complications of the disease:

Symptoms and Complications of Measles

Typically, measles symptoms show up as → high fever, cough, runny nose, and a rash. Which begins on the face and then spreads throughout the body. Complications, such as ear → infections, pneumonia, encephalitis (brain swelling), or even death, may arise. If you suspect you or someone you know has measles. Especially if they are young or have a weakened immune system, it’s crucial to seek medical attention. The best way to prevent the disease and its complications is through vaccination.

Measles Symptoms

This disease typically begins with symptoms such as → fever, cough, runny nose, and red, watery eyes. These symptoms usually appear around 10-14 days after exposure to the virus. After a few days, a red, blotchy rash usually develops on the face and spreads to the rest of the body.

The symptoms can include:

  1. High fever
  2. Runny nose
  3. Cough
  4. Red, watery eyes
  5. Rash that starts on the face and spreads to the rest of the body

The rash usually lasts for a few days and can be itchy. Other symptoms that may develop include diarrhoea, ear infection, and pneumonia.

Besides these symptoms, measles can cause complications like → ear infections, pneumonia, and encephalitis. Which is inflammation of the brain. Infants, pregnant women, and individuals with weakened immune systems are particularly at risk as the disease poses a significant danger to them.

More Severe Complications During Measles

This disease has the potential to inflict severe complications. Especially in → young children, pregnant women, and individuals with weakened immune systems. A few of the severe complications that can arise from measles are:

  1. Pneumonia: Measles virus can cause a serious lung infection. Which is one of the most common complications of measles and has the potential to be life-threatening.
  2. Encephalitis: Measles can rarely cause a serious complication, which inflames the brain. It happens in approximately 1 in every 1,000 measles cases. Which can result in seizures, deafness, and even death.
  3. Death: In rare cases, measles can lead to death, particularly in young children and people with weakened immune systems.

It’s important to note that developing countries with poor healthcare infrastructure. Where access to vaccines and medical care is limited, have a much higher risk of experiencing these complications. In such settings, measles can become a leading cause of death among children.

Risk Factors of Measles

This disease can affect individuals of any age, but certain groups are at a higher risk of experiencing severe complications from the illness. These groups include:

  1. Infants and young children: Children younger than five years of age are at a higher risk of developing complications from measles, such as pneumonia and encephalitis.
  2. Pregnant women: Pregnant women who contract measles are at an increased risk of premature labour, low birth weight, and even miscarriage.
  3. Individuals with compromised immune systems:  People who have compromised immune systems. Such as those diagnosed with HIV/AIDS or receiving cancer treatment. Face a greater risk of experiencing a severe measles-related complication.
  4. Malnourished individuals: Malnutrition can weaken the immune system, making individuals more susceptible to developing complications from measles.
  5. Unvaccinated individuals: People who have not received the measles vaccine are at a higher risk of contracting the illness and experiencing severe complications.

Just remember, This disease can affect anyone, no matter their age or health condition. But it’s especially crucial for individuals at a higher risk to take additional precautions and safeguard themselves from this illness.

Now, let’s move to the diagnosis and treatment of the disease:

Diagnosis and Treatment of Measles

This disease can be diagnosed based on the symptoms and physical exam. The presence of fever, cough, runny nose, and rash may suggest measles. Laboratory testing can also be done to confirm the diagnosis. Blood tests can be done to detect the presence of antibodies against the virus. A sample of the throat or nasal secretions can be taken to look for viral particles.

Diagnosis of Measles

Doctors diagnose the disease by considering symptoms, conducting lab tests, and reviewing exposure history:

  1. Symptoms: Usually, measles begins with → a high fever, cough, runny nose, and red, watery eyes. Afterwards, a red, blotchy rash appears, starting on the face and then spreading to the rest of the body. The rash usually stays for several days before fading away.
  2. Lab tests: A blood test called the measles IgM test can confirm the disease by detecting antibodies to the virus. It usually confirms the diagnosis within a few days of the onset of symptoms.
  3. History of exposure: Confirming the diagnosis can also be aided by a history of being exposed to someone with measles. It’s a highly contagious disease that spreads through coughing and sneezing. If an individual has had close contact with an infected person, they might be at risk of developing the disease.

It’s worth mentioning that measles symptoms may resemble those of other viral illnesses. So you should consult a healthcare provider for an accurate diagnosis. Moreover, if you suspect having measles. It’s crucial to seek medical attention as complications can arise, especially for individuals who are immunocompromised or pregnant.

Treatment Options for Measles

Treatment options for measles mainly focus on supportive care to help relieve the symptoms and prevent complications. There is currently no specific antiviral medication available to treat the disease. However, some antiviral drugs have been used to help reduce the severity of symptoms and shorten the duration of the illness.

Here is an explanation of such treatment options for the disease: 

  1. Supportive Care:  Supportive care for measles typically includes rest, plenty of fluids, and pain relief medication to help manage fever and discomfort. Antibiotics may also be prescribed if a secondary bacterial infection develops, such as pneumonia or ear infections.
  2. Antiviral Drugs: Sometimes, doctors have used antiviral drugs like → ribavirin and interferon to treat severe cases of measles. Especially in people with weakened immune systems. These medicines work by stopping the virus from multiplying and helping the immune system fight the infection.

Importance of Vaccination

Getting vaccinated is the best way to prevent measles and control outbreaks. Many countries include the measles vaccine in their routine childhood vaccination schedule and administer it in two doses. Vaccinating is crucial to safeguard not just oneself, but also the community. When a sufficient number of people in a population receive the vaccine, it establishes herd immunity. This helps halt the virus’s transmission and shields individuals unable to get vaccinated, like infants or those with weakened immune systems.

Now, we will discuss the prevention and control of the disease:

Prevention and Control of Measles

This disease can be prevented through vaccination and by taking other preventive measures, such as good hygiene practices and isolation of infected individuals.

Vaccination and its Effectiveness

Getting vaccinated is the best way to prevent the disease. The measles vaccine, which is safe, effective, and widely available, requires two doses. The first dose is given at 12-15 months of age, while the second dose is given at 4-6 years of age. Adults who haven’t been vaccinated or had measles can also receive the vaccine.

Vaccination works really well in stopping measles. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the measles vaccine’s two doses are around 97% effective in preventing the disease. This means that if 100 vaccinated individuals come into contact with the measles virus, only about three of them will become ill.

Other Preventive Measures

In addition to vaccination, there are other measures taken to prevent the spread of the disease. These include:

  1. Practising good hygiene, such as washing hands frequently with soap and water.
  2. Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze.
  3. Avoiding close contact with people who are sick.
  4. Staying home from work or school if you are sick.
  5. Isolating infected individuals to prevent the spread of the virus.

Importance of Public Health Efforts

Public health efforts are also important in controlling disease outbreaks. This includes surveillance, early detection and diagnosis of cases, tracing contacts of infected individuals, and ensuring that people who have been in contact with infected individuals are vaccinated or monitored for symptoms.

In addition, public health officials work to increase public awareness about the importance of vaccination and good hygiene practices and to address vaccine hesitancy and misinformation about vaccines.

Now, we will discuss the global impact of the disease:

Global Impact of Measles

This disease poses a major challenge to global health, especially in developing countries. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported approximately 207,500 deaths due to measles worldwide in 2019, with the majority of fatalities affecting children under the age of five. Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia witnessed the highest number of these tragic incidents, as the disease continues to prevail in these regions.

Prevalence of Measles Worldwide and its Impact

Despite the availability of a safe and effective vaccine, measles continues to be a significant health problem in many parts of the world. In 2019, there were 869,770 reported cases of the disease globally. Measles outbreaks are particularly devastating in areas with high levels of poverty, malnutrition, and poor access to healthcare, as these factors can increase the risk of complications and death from the disease. Vulnerable populations such as young children, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems are particularly at risk.

Efforts to Control Outbreaks in Developing Countries

To address the global burden of measles, efforts have been made to improve vaccination rates and control outbreaks in developing countries. The WHO recommends that all children receive two doses of the measles vaccine, which can provide lifelong immunity against the disease. In many developing countries, however, access to the vaccine remains a challenge due to factors such as limited healthcare infrastructure, lack of funding, and vaccine hesitancy.


To sum it up, measles, which is a viral illness, spreads easily and can cause severe health problems and even death. To prevent and control outbreaks, we should rely on vaccination and public health initiatives. This includes monitoring, quickly diagnosing, and isolating infected people. Vaccines play a vital role in safeguarding both individuals and communities from the disease, as they are safe and effective. It’s crucial to raise awareness about the significance of vaccination and ensure that everyone has access to vaccines. By collaborating, we can eradicate measles and enhance global health.

Further Reading

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1 Comment

Akshay Sharma · May 30, 2023 at 8:14 pm

Your article about the measles: symptoms, treatment and diagnosis is very informative. Would like to see a lot more content on this. Thank you for sharing this kind of article.

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