MEASLES

What is it?

A highly contagious infectious disease, measles belongs to the group of diseases manifesting themselves by marked skin alterations, erythematous exanthem (red skin, with plaques that tend to unite) and compromising several organs. Measles is caused by a virus called morbili vírus.

How is it Spread?

Men and monkeys are the only animals that naturally harbor this virus

Respiratory droplets and even the air with the virus still alive are responsible for the spreading of the disease.

The contagious period begins 3 to 4 days before and runs until 4 to 5 days after the onset of the skin lesions (cutaneous rash). The time interval between exposure to the infection and onset of symptoms (incubation period) averages 2 weeks.

What does one feel?

Very high fever, intense cough, coriza, conjunctivitis and maculopapular exanthem (skin with rugged reddened plaques)

Internal examination of the cheeks enables the identification of yellow-white spots (Koplik's exanthem) that confirms the diagnosis.

How is the diagnosis made?

The patient's history and clinical examination allow the making of the diagnosis in the quasi-totality of the cases.

In more complex situations, the presence of antibodies (organism's reaction of self-defense against this virus) in the blood is a confirmation the condition.

How is it treated?

In the vast majority of the cases, the treatment is focused on diminishing the symptoms, as fever and cough or combating some complication due to the useof antibiotics.

Very specific cases may require medication of the type anti-measles gamma globulin, aiming the virus itself or the strengthening of the capacity of general self-defense.

Prognosis

Measles is certainly the most severe of the so-called common infant diseases: severe complication and death occur in up to 3/1000 cases.

How is it prevented? Anti-measles vaccine, highly effective, is administered in two doses, the first one being given at 9 months old, and the second at 15 months old.

Unexposed non-vaccinated individuals may benefit from the vaccination.

Pregnant women or supposed to get pregnant within 90 days should not be vaccinated.

Patients with leukemia, lymphoma, HIV and other severe immunity conditions should be assessed individually.

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