Measles can kill, but is rarely fatal


Measles is a highly contagious infectious disease caused by the measles virus. Symptoms usually develop 10–12 days after exposure to an infected person and last 7–10 days. Initial symptoms typically include fever, often greater than 40 °C (104 °F), cough, runny nose, and inflamed eyes. Small white spots known as Koplik's spots may form inside the mouth two or three days after the start of symptoms. A red, flat rash which usually starts on the face and then spreads to the rest of the body typically begins three to five days after the start of symptoms. Common complications include diarrhea (in 8% of cases), middle ear infection (7%), and pneumonia (6%).These occur in part due to measles-induced immunosuppression. Less commonly seizures, blindness, or inflammation of the brain may occur. Other names include morbilli, rubeola, red measles, and English measles. Other names include morbilli, rubeola, red measles, and English measles.

Measles is caused by the measles virus, a single-stranded, negative-sense, enveloped RNA virus of the genus Morbillivirus within the family Paramyxoviridae. The virus is highly contagious and is spread by coughing and sneezing via close personal contact or direct contact with secretions. Measles is the most contagious transmissible virus known to date. It can live for up to two hours in that airspace or nearby surfaces. Measles is so contagious that if one person has it, 90% of nearby non-immune people will also become infected. Humans are the only natural hosts of the virus, and no other animal reservoirs are known to exist. Risk factors for measles virus infection include immunodeficiency caused by HIV or AIDS, immunosuppression following receipt of an organ or a stem cell transplant, alkylating agents, or corticosteroid therapy, regardless of immunization status; travel to areas where measles commonly occurs or contact with travelers from such an area; and the loss of passive, inherited antibodies before the age of routine immunization.

There is no specific antiviral treatment if measles develops. Instead the medications are generally aimed at treating superinfections, maintaining good hydration with adequate fluids, and pain relief. Some groups, like young children and the severely malnourished, are also given vitamin A, which act as an immunomodulator that boosts the antibody responses to measles and decreases the risk of serious complications. Treatment is supportive, with ibuprofen or paracetamol (acetaminophen) to reduce fever and pain and, if required, a fast-acting medication to dilate the airways for cough. As for aspirin, some research has suggested a correlation between children who take aspirin and the development of Reye syndrome.

Measles is extremely infectious and its continued circulation in a community depends on the generation of susceptible hosts by birth of children. In communities that generate insufficient new hosts the disease will die out. This concept was first recognized in measles by Bartlett in 1957, who referred to the minimum number supporting measles as the critical community size (CCS). Analysis of outbreaks in island communities suggested that the CCS for measles is around 250,000. To achieve herd immunity, more than 95% of the community must be vaccinated due to the ease with which measles is transmitted from person to person.

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