Cases of measles in Europe have hit a record high, according to the World Health Organization. In 2017, there were 23,927 reported cases yet the year before, only 5,273. But why?
Specialists say that the surge in measles cases is due to a decrease in the number of people being vaccinated. The Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination has been surrounded by an air of controversy since being linked to autism in 1998, when a study of 12 children published in The Lancet linked the MMR jab to the development of autism. That research has since been discredited and two major studies have been published subsequently which also failed to prove any link.
How do measles spread?
Measles is a highly contagious viral infection that appears as a rash with cold-like symptoms. It spreads via droplets in coughs and sneezes.
The infection lasts seven to 10 days. But while most people recover completely, it can cause some serious complications, including:
Encephalitis – Inflammation of the active tissues of the brain which can start with flu-like symptoms but needs urgent hospital treatment.
Meningitis – Inflammation of the tissues surrounding the brain and spinal cord which can be very serious if not treated quickly.
Febrile convulsions – Fits that accompany a fever which can include black-outs, twitching, and difficulty breathing among other symptoms.
Pneumonia – Inflammation of air sacs in the lungs which can cause a cough, difficulty breathing, a high temperature, and chest pain.
Hepatitis – Inflammation of the liver.
What are the symptoms of measles?
A red-brown blotchy rash which usually starts on the head or upper neck before spreading
Inflamed eyes that may be sensitive to light
Tiny white spots with bluish-white centres on a red background found inside the mouth on the inner lining of the cheek — also called Koplik's spots
The cold-like symptoms usually come a few days before the rash and these develop around 10 days after infection.
Measles are unpleasant, but normally pass in around 7 to 10 days without causing any further problems. On the upside, once you have had measles, your body builds up resistance to the virus and it's extremely unlikely you'll ever have them again.
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