What is Measles?
Measles is a viral disease. Not everyone recognizes
measles as a serious disease, which it really is. Measles
can be deadly. The 10th Century Persian physician, Rhazes
considered measles "to be dreaded more than smallpox."
Measles still kills about a million people a year around the
Who are susceptible
All unvaccinated newborns are at danger from Measles.
Usually children become susceptible to Measles around the
age of nine months, probably because they are protected up
to this period by the antibodies (proteins that protect against
a disease) against Measles, received from their mothers.
How does Measles spread?
Measles is a highly contagious disease, which spreads
through air. Mere sneezing by an infected child in a group
of children can easily spread this virus. It spreads so easily
that any child who is exposed to it and is not immune will
probably get it. One can get measles from an infected person
who coughs or sneezes around you or even talks to you.
What is the prevalence
of Measles in India and the world over?
Measles is a leading cause of childhood deaths. Every
year around 3 million cases of Measles are seen and about
900,000 children die because of Measles around the world.
In India everyday, 500 children die because of Measles. The
most worrying part is that the vaccine coverage against Measles
in India is only 66% and even below 50% in many states.
What are the symptoms
and adverse effects of Measles?
The symptoms of Measles start about 10 days after
the infection and include high fever (103oF - 105o F), running
nose, cough, and redness of eyes (pin head sized bluish white
spots on a red base occur in the mouth. The child loses weight
and remains weak for several days). Rash appears behind the
ears and spreads rapidly over the face and the neck extending
downwards reaching the hands and feet over the next three
days. The rash fades in the same order leaving a brownish
discolouration, which persists for two months or more. In
general the disease is very trouble some for the child. In
fact, the term "measles" probably comes from a Latin
word meaning "miserable."
Complications of measles:
For most children, measles means a rash and cold,
and missing a few days of school. But there are several complications
caused by measles. These are:
1 out of every 10 children who get measles also get an ear
infection (Otitis media).
Upto 1 out of 20 of them get pneumonia.
About 1 child in every 1,000 who get measles get encephalitis.
(Encephalitis is an inflammation of the brain that can lead
to convulsions, and can leave your child deaf or mentally
Out of every 1,000 children who get measles, 1 or 2 die
from it. In developing countries (like India), where malnutrition
and vitamin A deficiency is prevalent, measles has been known
to kill as many as one out of four children.
Diarhoea and pneumonia are other complications of measles
which can cause death
Measles can also cause permanent brain damage
In some countries measles causes blindness
Measles can also lead to degenerative disease of nervous system
named as SSPE (Subacute Sclerosing Pan Encephalitis). SSPE
can further cause paralysis.
These complications are more common among children under 5
years of age and adults over 20 years old.
What is the treatment
Few drugs like Interferon, Vitamin A, may be used
for the treatment of Measles. Moreover, certain antibodies
are required to treat ear and chest complications as well
as chemotherapeutic agents have been tried for the treatment
of Measles (SSPE) but unfortunately these remedies are not
very effective and hence vaccination is a better way to prevent
complications of Measles. Measles is a completely preventable
When should the vaccine
The first dose of Measles should be given at the age
of 9 months (M-Vac). However, it has been observed that a
single dose of Measles is not enough for effective eradication
of this disease. Therefore, a second dose against Measles
as MMR (Tresivac) should be administered at the age of 12-15
What is the vaccination
schedule if the above doses are missed?
If both of these doses are missed, then a child can
still be given the vaccine. This should be done at the earliest
possible stage. If the child is below one year, he must be
given the measles vaccine (M-Vac) and if the child is above
one year he must be vaccinated by administering a dose of
MMR (Tresivac) at the earliest, up to the age of 12-13 years.
How long does this vaccine
offer protection against Measles?
Usually two doses against Measles (first M-Vac at
9 months and Tresivac at 12-15 months) offer long term protection.
Clinical data is available showing antibody titers well above
the minimal limits up to 16 years after vaccination.
What are the side effects
of this vaccine?
Usually both M-Vac as well as MMR (Tresivac) are well
tolerated. However, in rare cases there are some chances of
mild reactions, usually low/mild fever and slight rash.