A recent outbreak of measles in Melbourne, that caused alerts to be raised in Sydney, Brisbane and the Gold Coast, is a timely reminder for parents to be aware of the symptoms of the highly infectious disease.
The chances are slim your child will come into contact with the measles virus; however it’s not something we should simply ignore. Being forewarned is forearmed right?
Who is at risk of measles?
If you have a child with an impaired or lowered immune system, they will be more susceptible to contracting measles. In addition, those born since 1966 who do not have documented evidence of receiving two doses of a measles-containing vaccine or documented evidence of immunity are also at risk.
So how does measles spread?
Measles is most commonly spread when someone swallows or inhales the cough or sneeze droplets from an infected person. The measles viruses are carried inside mucus or saliva droplets and remain alive for several hours.
Infection can also occur if someone touches contaminated surfaces or objects and then touches their own mouth or nose or eats before washing their hands. What makes this virus super infectious is that it can survive on surfaces for a few hours.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms take between 10 and 18 days to show after infection and initially they include fever, lethargy, runny nose, moist cough and sore and red eyes.
This is followed a few days later by a blotchy, red rash that is slightly raised. It often starts on the face and then becomes widespread over the body.
How long is a person infectious for?
Someone with measles is infectious for one week before and after the rash appears. Those with the infection are advised to stay home from school or work and not go out in public.
Estimates suggest that a person with measles will infect about nine in every 10 people they have contact with who have not been immunised or previously infected with measles.
What are the complications of measles?
It can be a serious illness with complications including pneumonia and inflammation of the brain (encephalitis); which can be fatal. According to the Department of Health about one in every 15 children with measles develops pneumonia, and one in 1000 develops encephalitis.
For every 10 children who contract encephalitis, one will die and up to four will have permanent brain damage.
Why is measles still around?
Interesting, in 2014 the World Health Organisation announced measles elimination had been achieved by Australia thanks to its national immunisation program. However, cases are still imported by travellers from countries where the disease is prevalent.
Fact: Prior to widespread vaccination in 1980, globally measles caused an estimated 2.6 million deaths every year.
If you want more information on measles symptoms or immunity visit the Australian Government’s Health Direct website here.
Source: Queensland Health