It’s one of the leading causes of death among young children around the world. Also known as rubeola, measles are highly contagious and dangerous if left without treatment or prevention. Premier health institution Makati Medical Center (MakatiMed) underscores the importance of knowing the early signs of the illness and how vaccines can greatly help in controlling the development and spread of this deadly disease to save your kids’ lives.
A respiratory disease caused by a virus, measles normally grows in the cells that line the back of the throat and lungs. “This causes the patient to have fever, dry cough, sneezing, runny nose, sore throat, body and muscle aches, inflamed eyes, and white spots found inside the mouth in the inner lining of the cheek or what is commonly known as Koplik’s spots,” explains Godofredo C. Godoy, MD, Internist from Makati Medical Center.
About thirty percent of measles can develop into one or more complications, he says, such as pneumonia, which is the most common cause of death in young children; ear infections that may result in permanent loss of hearing; and diarrhea, which is reported in about eight percent of cases. Measles may also cause bronchitis, blindness, decreased platelet count, miscarriages, and preterm labor.
“Measles is so contagious that any child who is exposed to it and is not immune will most likely get the disease,” Dr. Godoy warns. “Even just the breathing, coughing, or sneezing of an infected individual can cause the virus to spread. It can also be through the use of an infected person’s drinking glasses, plates and eating utensils.” And so one can imagine how easy it can be for a measles outbreak to happen. “It starts when majority of the people in a certain area are susceptible to it. The usual incubation period for the virus is two to three weeks and an outbreak can last for a few days or a week, or even for several years.” Dr. Godoy adds.
As a high-risk disease that can easily spread to sizable populations, prevention is paramount to fighting off measles. “This is a highly infectious disease we’re talking about, with no specific treatment,” Dr. Godoy points out. “The treatment administered to patients is mainly supportive: paracetamol to relieve fever and muscle pain, antihistamines for the itchiness, and antibiotics for those with secondary bacterial infections.” Dr. Godoy also recommends rest and Vitamin A and C supplements to help boost the patient’s immune system, plenty of fluids, humidifiers to ease coughing and sore throat, and isolation at home to prevent further spread of the disease.
Per the Department of Health (DOH), efforts for preventive measures, and to make more Filipinos aware of the disease are still being done—one of which is a campaign on timely vaccinations, which is still the best precaution to take. “Ensuring that children get the routine measles vaccine at one and four years old will provide the necessary protection against the disease,” Dr. Godoy stresses.
He continues, “The measles vaccine has been available for over 40 years already, and it is safe, effective, and inexpensive. Filipinos, particularly parents, need to be aware of this, as having a large number of unvaccinated children greatly increases the risk of more infections and deaths.”
Dr. Godoy offers practical tips for parents on mindfulness and quick action. “Familiarize yourself with the common symptoms of measles, particularly the type of rash it produces. The measles rash is usually reddish-brown, and can be blotchy in appearance—and it typically shows up first on the forehead before spreading downward. Don’t hesitate to bring your child to the doctor if they exhibit the symptoms and rash."