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Measles is caused by the paramyxo virus. It is transmitted by droplets, and even if the sick person is in isolation, the infection may still spread from room to room. The incubation period of the disease is usually one to two weeks and patients are infectious from four days before the onset of the rash until five days after it appears.
Initial symptoms of measles include feeling tired and exhausted, irritability, high fever, runny and swollen eyes, dislike of the light and cough and cold symptoms. About 14 days after exposure to the virus a bright red rash breaks out on the forehead and face and spreads down the body over several days. The rash begins as small spots, however these will double in size very quickly and begin to join together.
Anybody who has not already had measles can be infected. A vaccine for measles is available which is given at 12 to 15 months of age, along with vaccines for mumps and German measles. This vaccine is know as MMR. A booster is given before the child starts school.
Women planning pregnancy should also ensure that they are vaccinated against measles if they have not already had the disease. Having measles during pregnancy can cause harm to the unborn baby.
There is no specific treatment for measles and normally, treatment of symptoms such as fever, aches and pains is all that is possible. The patient should drink plenty of fluids even if they are off their food. Measles may cause a patient to seem very ill and if in any doubt you should consult your doctor for advice.