While volunteering in the clinic last week, I came upon a chart that explained various skin infections. Included was the measles, a disease that is hardly ever seen in the United States. Knowing that every American child must receive a full MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) vaccination in order to be able to go to school, I thought I would further research this disease. I had no idea how much of a global impact this disease still has, let alone how important it is to the public health community. Read on for some interesting information:
Pathology: Measles is a virus that is one of the most contagious diseases known. It is harbored on the back of the throat and in the lungs, and exposed children who have not had the vaccine nearly always contract it. It can be transmitted by just being in close proximity to someone who is infected.
The time from exposure to first sign of infection is about 10-12 days. A few days after the intial symptoms, the person will break out in a rash. It then takes about three days for the rash to spread throughout the entire body, lasting a total of about 5-6 days. Thus, from beginning to end, the disease usually takes a 2-4 week course.
If the person survives the entire progression of the disease, he/she will be immune for the rest of his/her life.
- high fever (up to 104 or 105 degrees)
- runny nose
- sensitivity to light
- watery or red eyes
- white spots inside the cheek
- rash on the face and neck, eventually spreading down to the feet
Complications: People who die from the measles typically do not die from the disease itself, but from its byproducts. These include:
- infection and swelling in the brain
- severe diarrhea
- other severe infections
Treatment:This disease is very easy to treat. Someone suffering from measles should drink extra fluids and eat well. They may also need antibiotics to prevent/treat any severe infection. If afflicted by dirrhea, simple oral rehydration therapy (drinking water with sugar and salt added) can prevent any severe complications. To prevent blindness and eye damage, Vitamin A supplements can also be taken.
Mortality (# of deaths): It is estimated that 454,000 died from this last year, 410,000 of these being under the age of 5. It is a leading cause of vaccine-preventable death among children.
Morbidity (# affected by disease): Over 20 million per year.
Epidemiology: Over 95% of deaths by measles occurs in poor countries. Although nearly non-existent in industrialized nations, the following areas are heavily afflicted: Africa, Eastern Mediterranean, South-East Asia, Western Pacific Region.
Public Health Component: Measles is easily prevented by a vaccine. The vaccine is cheap (less than $1 to immunize one child, or $0.33 if purchased through UNICEF), safe, and very effective. Measles immunization has the highest health return per money spent because it saves more lives per unit than any other vaccine. In areas where efforts have been made to distribute the vaccine, the mortality decreased on average by 68% over a 6 year period.
Currently, measles is a leading public health issue because it is both dangerously contagious and so easily preventable.
The Measles Initiative: The Measles Initiative is a group created in 2001 by the American Red Cross, CDC, United Nations Foundation, UNICEF, and the WHO in order to reduce measles fatalities by 90% by the year 2010. After researching this site, I think it’s a really great cause. You can donate time, money, or support here.
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