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Measles: Symptoms, Causes and Prevention

May 21, 2024

Immunization and Vaccination


Measles is a highly contagious disease characterized by high fever, cough, runny nose, red eyes, and a distinctive rash. The United States has recently seen a resurgence of measles cases, particularly alarming in Illinois. Chicago has been notably affected, highlighting the need for heightened awareness and preventive measures. With outbreaks reported in various regions, staying informed about local health advisories and vaccination recommendations is crucial.

Recognizing the symptoms and getting help when needed can significantly lower the risk of severe complications and help contain the spread of this preventable disease.

Keep reading to explore the symptoms of measles, its causes, associated risk factors, and how it is diagnosed. Discover when you should be vaccinated, its prevention tips, and when to consult a doctor. Additionally, find out how Metro Urgent Care can assist you.

Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms of Measles

According to the CDC, symptoms of measles usually begin 7 to 14 days after the infection.

Here's what to watch out for:

  • High Fever:

    Often one of the first signs, it can be severe.

  • Cough:

    Persistent and dry, typically accompanying the fever.

  • Runny Nose:

    A clear, watery discharge.

  • Red Eyes (Conjunctivitis):

    Inflammation that causes discomfort and light sensitivity.

  • Rash:

    Red, blotchy skin rash that usually starts on the face and spreads downward.

What Causes Measles?

Measles is caused by the morbillivirus, a highly contagious virus that spreads through air and direct contact.

These are the primary causes and transmission methods:

  • Airborne Transmission:

    The virus can live in the air for up to two hours after an infected person coughs or sneezes, making it easy to contract by breathing in contaminated air.

  • Direct Contact:

    Contacting surfaces or objects contaminated with the virus, such as door handles or utensils, and touching your face can lead to infection.

  • Close Contact:

    Being close to an infected person increases the risk of transmission, especially in crowded or enclosed spaces.

  • Seasonal Spread:

    Measles spreads more during late winter and early spring when people are more likely to be indoors in close quarters.

  • Lack of Vaccination:

    Individuals who have not received vaccination are at a much higher risk of contracting and spreading the virus, highlighting the importance of widespread immunization.

Risk Factors for Measles

A few factors that can influence how susceptible you are to measles include:

  • Unvaccinated Individuals:

    Those without the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine are highly vulnerable.

  • International Travel:

    Visiting countries where measles is more common increases the risk.

  • Crowded Environments:

    Places with high population density can facilitate rapid spread.

  • Weakened Immune System:

    Individuals with compromised immunity are at greater risk of severe complications.

  • Infants and Young Children:

    They are more vulnerable to severe symptoms and complications.

How is Measles Diagnosed?

Diagnosing measles involves a combination of clinical evaluation and laboratory tests:

  • Clinical Evaluation:

    Doctors look for characteristic signs, such as fever, rash, and Koplik spots (white spots inside the mouth).

  • Laboratory Tests:

    Blood tests can confirm measles by detecting measles-specific IgM antibodies or isolating the measles virus RNA from respiratory specimens.

When Should You Get Vaccination for Measles?

Ensuring timely vaccination against measles is crucial to safeguarding community health and preventing outbreaks of this highly contagious disease:

  • Children

    First dose at 12-15 months

    Second dose at 4-6 years

  • Adults

    Ensure evidence of immunity or receive at least one MMR vaccine dose

  • High-risk Groups

    Healthcare workers, international travelers, and college students may need two doses

    Infants aged 6-11 months should receive a dose before international travel

Effective Prevention Tips

Prevention of measles involves a combination of vaccination and supportive care. Here are some tips for both children and adults:

For Children:

  • Ensure Timely Vaccination:

    Adhere to the recommended vaccination schedule for the MMR vaccine.

  • Promote Hygiene:

    Teach children to wash their hands regularly and avoid sharing utensils or drinks.

  • Limit Exposure:

    Avoid contact with unvaccinated individuals or those showing symptoms of measles.

For Adults:

  • Update Vaccinations:

    Ensure you are up-to-date with the MMR vaccine, especially if traveling internationally.

  • Practice Good Hygiene:

    Regular handwashing and avoiding close contact with infected individuals are crucial.

  • Boost Immune Health:

    Maintain a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and manage stress to strengthen the immune system.

Supportive Care:

  • Hydration:

    Ensure adequate fluid intake to prevent dehydration.

  • Rest:

    Plenty of rest helps the body recover more effectively.

  • Pain Relief:

    Over-the-counter medications can reduce fever and discomfort.

When to Consult a Doctor?

It's essential to seek medical attention if you suspect measles, especially if you or your child exhibits:

  • High fever that doesn't respond to medication
  • Severe cough or difficulty breathing
  • Persistent diarrhoea and dizziness symptoms including vomiting
  • Ear infection, such as ear pain or drainage
  • Any signs of complications like pneumonia or encephalitis

Get Immediate Care for Measles at Metro Urgent Care

Contact Metro Urgent Care. Our Skilled healthcare professionals are dedicated to helping you get back to feeling your best.

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