February 2, 2017

Measles, also known as Rubeola or morbilli, is a highly infectious illness caused by a virus – a viral infection caused by the rubeola virus. The disease is transmitted via airborne respiratory droplets, or by direct contact with nasal and throat secretions of infected individuals.

Measles is an endemic disease; meaning it is continually present in a community and many people develop resistance. If measles enters an area where the people have never been exposed the result can be devastating.

A measles outbreak in 1592 in the island of Cuba killed approximately two-thirds of the native population who had previously survived smallpox. A couple of years later half the indigenous population of Honduras died.

Before widespread immunisation against measles in industrialised countries, measles was a very common childhood disease that carried a high death rate. Nowadays in countries where measles is part of an immunisation programme, the risk of exposure and incidence of actual disease cases is low. However, because of a recent trend by some parents not to immunise their children, the number of cases of measles, and its complications, is once again increasing.

In developing countries, measles still occurs frequently and is associated with a high rate of complications and death. It remains a common disease even in some developed countries of Europe and Asia. Measles still causes more than a million childhood deaths each year.


Measles is caused by infection with the rubeola virus, a paramyxovirus of the genus Morbillivirus. The virus lives in the mucus of the nose and throat of an infected child or adult. The infected person is contagious for four days before the rash appears, and continues so for about four to five days afterwards.

People can become infected through –

  • Physical contact with an infected person.
  • Being nearby infected people if they cough or sneeze.
  • Touching a surface that has infected droplets of mucus (the virus remains active for two hours) and then putting your fingers into your mouth, rubbing your nose or eyes.

Risk Factors

Risk factors for measles include –


  • Being unvaccinated – If they haven’t received the vaccine for measles, they are much more likely to develop the disease.
  • Traveling internationally – If they travel to developing countries, where measles is more common, they are at higher risk of catching the disease.
  • Having a vitamin A deficiency – If they don’t have enough vitamin A in their diet, they more likely to contract measles and to have more-severe symptoms.


Measles is associated with the following signs and symptoms –

  • Moderate-to-high fever
  • Conjunctivitis (red, irritated eyes)
  • Cough
  • Sore throat, hoarseness
  • Runny nose
  • Red spots with bluish white centers (called Koplik spots) on the inside of the mouth
  • Red, blotchy, itchy rash, which begins on the face and then spreads
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Rarely (1 in 1,000 cases), extreme drowsiness, seizure, or coma, suggesting involvement of the central nervous system
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms, including diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal pain (these symptoms are less common)


Complications of measles may include –

  • Ear infection – One of the most common complications of measles is a bacterial ear infection.
  • Bronchitis, laryngitis or croup – Measles may lead to inflammation of the voice box (larynx) or inflammation of the inner walls that line the main air passageways of the lungs (bronchial tubes).
  • Pneumonia – Pneumonia is a common complication of measles. People with compromised immune systems can develop an especially dangerous variety of pneumonia that is sometimes fatal.
  • Encephalitis – About 1 in 1,000 people with measles develops encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain that may cause vomiting, convulsions, and, rarely, coma or even death. Encephalitis can closely follow measles, or it can occur months later.
  • Pregnancy problems – If women are pregnant, they need to take special care to avoid measles because the disease can cause pregnancy loss, preterm labor or low birth weight.
  • Low platelet count (thrombocytopenia) – Measles may lead to a decrease in platelets — the type of blood cells that are essential for blood clotting.


  • Acetaminophen for high fevers – Children under 16 should not be given aspirin because of the danger of developing Reye syndrome.
  • Antibiotics for bacterial complications, such as pneumonia and ear infection
  • Immune gamma globulin followed by measles vaccination 5 to 6 months later

Alternative Treatment

A multivitamin daily, containing the antioxidant vitamins A, C, E, the B-vitamins and trace minerals, such as magnesium, calcium, zinc, and selenium.

Omega-3 fatty acids to reduce inflammation and improve immunity.

Probiotic supplement for maintenance of gastrointestinal and immune health. Some probiotic supplements need refrigeration.

Green tea for antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immune effects.

Cat’s claw for inflammation and antiviral activity.

Phyllanthus may slow blood clotting.


Reference –

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