Anyone who thinks of a simple childhood disease in measles is wrong. Measles is a very contagious acute viral infection characterized by upper respiratory illness and typical skin changes. Measles is a serious illness that is often associated with high fever, cough, runny nose, conjunctivitis of the eyes and possible complications of brain inflammation (encephalitis), otitis media and pneumonia. In developing countries, measles is one of the ten most common and most dangerous diseases. In Germany, after 1996, for the first time in December 2001, there has again been a significant increase in measles diseases.
Measles: Multi-stage disease
A measles disease takes place in three stages. Approximately seven to 14 days after infection, flu-like symptoms such as fever, runny nose, and cough first develop. The affected are often very sensitive to light and develop on the oral mucosa, in the area of the posterior molars patches, which are outlined in red. After two to three days, these spots go back. Overall, this phase lasts about three to five days.
The second stage of the disease is a rash typical of measles. It starts in front of and under the ears, then spreads irregularly all over the body. The spots often have a small blister in the middle, from which presumably the name of the disease is derived. "Measles" goes back to the old Dutch term "masele" and means as much as pustules.
After a while, the spots are merging. This phase of the disease is accompanied by a renewed high fever rise. As a rule, the rash persists for three days. During this time, the disease is particularly contagious.
During the subsequent recovery phase, patients are susceptible to other illnesses because their own immune system must first recover. When the rash subsides, the skin flakes. At this stage, the disease is no longer contagious.
Little treatment options
A measles disease can be treated only symptomatically, that is, the fever is lowered, cough and cold symptoms can be alleviated by tea and cool, humidified air. Patients should be isolated to avoid infection with other unvaccinated persons. Most patients feel so ill that they prefer bed rest and rest to all other activities.
Because of the excessive sensitivity to light, it is advisable to darken the room. Possible complications may need to be treated with antibiotics. In the case of measles disease, a doctor should always be consulted and attention should be paid to the possible infection of other family members.
High risk of infection with measles
Measles are transmitted by the so-called droplet infection, that is, by snoring, coughing or even germs in the air. Because of this mode of transmission, measles can be easily passed on. Although today enough vaccine is available, and in the Federal Republic of Germany, the cost of measles vaccine are taken over by the health insurance, the disease is still underestimated in this country.
Changing conditions in the population structure - this includes, for example, the rise of "one-child families" - many teething problems shift into adolescence and adulthood. At the same time, this increases the risk of serious complications such as brain inflammation with lasting damage or death. According to information from the Robert Koch Institute in Berlin, around 20% of brain diseases after measles cause lasting damage. About 15% of the patients die.
An undergone measles disease leaves a lifelong immunity.
Measles vaccine helps
Experience from the US, the UK or even Finland shows that measles can be completely suppressed with a vaccination program. In order to interrupt the circulation of measles virus, 95% of the population must be vaccinated against measles. The vaccination rate in infants is currently only 80%. Since 1973, between the ages of 12 and 15 months in Germany, measles-mumps-rubella vaccine has been used as part of the preventive medical check-ups in Germany.
A measles vaccine is really successful but only with a second vaccination, which can be given as early as four weeks after the first vaccination. In Germany, the second vaccination is often missing in many children, although it would be particularly useful before entering the school, ie at the age of five or six years.
In the US, full vaccination status is mandatory before school starts. Without proof of vaccination, children may not be enrolled there, even though compulsory education is required on the other side. Parents who do not comply with the obligation to vaccinate can be punished. It makes sense to have a measles vaccine for adults who have not been vaccinated or who have not undergone measles, even on trips to developing countries.
Vaccination: Virtually no side effects
The measles vaccine contains attenuated, live pathogens. They can no longer trigger the disease, but stimulate the body to form antibodies. As a rule, the vaccine is well tolerated. Occasionally, one to two weeks after vaccination, mild measles symptoms appear but are not contagious. At the site of the vaccine, which is usually injected into the muscle on the upper arm, thigh or laterally into the buttocks, slight redness and swelling may occur. Those who are allergic to chicken protein should discuss these and other vaccinations with their doctor first.