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Measles: Everything You Need to Know

What is Measles?

Measles is a highly contagious infection caused by the measles virus. It is also known as red measles, rubeola, and morbilli. It is an airborne disease, so it is mainly spread through coughs, sneezes, and contact with saliva or nasal secretions of those infected.
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What Causes Measles?

Measles is caused by the contact with the virus. If you are around someone who is sick with measles, and you are not properly vaccinated, according to the Mayo Clinic there is a 90% chance that you will also contract measles. However, this is now a very common vaccination given to children in the United States, so exposure in the United States is low.
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What Are the Symptoms of Measles?

Measles is characterized by fever, cough, runny nose, and red eyes. Within days of the onset of symptoms (two or three, usually), small white spots, called Koplik’s spots, may form inside the mouth. Three to five days after the start of symptoms, a flat, red rash usually spreads from the face to the rest of the body. Roughly 30% of those with measles may experience complications including pneumonia, inflammation of the brain, diarrhea, and sometimes even blindness.

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What Are the Risk Factors of Measles?

The biggest risk factors of measles are being unvaccinated or travelling internationally. Like we mentioned earlier, there is a 90% chance of contracting measles if you are not vaccinated, and since exposure in the United States is low due to the high amount of vaccinations, international travel is more likely to expose you or your child to measles. A deficiency in vitamin A is also another known risk factor.
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How is Measles Diagnosed?

Your doctor will likely diagnose measles based on symptoms, however because measles is uncommon in the United States due to the high vaccination rate, your doctor might not have seen measles before, so more testing might be needed to verify. These additional tests could include a blood test, throat swab, or even a urine sample.
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How Can Measles Be Treated and Cured?

For those infected with the measles virus there exists no specific treatment. Supportive care methods (rehydration, medications for fever, healthy foods, and antibiotics for bacterial infections that result as a complication) are often provided to improve outcomes. The best defense against the disease, however, is the vaccination.

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How Can Measles Be Prevented?

Of any disease, measles causes the most deaths preventable by vaccine. The vaccine in use for preventing measles is proven to be very effective: it has caused a 75% decrease in measles-related deaths between 2000 and 2013. As of now, 85% of children in the world have been vaccinated.

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What Are the Health Risks of not Preventing or Treating Measles?

Before the US began administering immunizations regularly, measles affected between three and four million citizens a year. Risk of death among the infected is only about 0.2%, and 10% in cases involving a malnourished patient. Most of those who die from the infection are less than five years old, so early vaccination is crucial.

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What Are Home Remedies for the Measles?

The most effective home remedies for the measles are the same as most other viruses and diseases: rest and water. Making sure you are well rested and not moving around too much as well as drinking lots of water gives your body the break it needs to fight off the virus. To properly treat it, though, you will need to see your doctor.
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When Should You See Your Doctor?

You should see a doctor if you or your child have been exposed to the measles by someone you have been in contact with or if you or your child are experiencing symptoms that could indicate the measles. However, you should see your doctor on a regular basis and make sure you and your child are properly vaccinated to prevent getting measles in the first place.
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