LivingWhy is measles such a serious disease?

Why is measles such a serious disease?

One of the best-known manifestations of measles is the appearance of a skin rash. Hopefully that was the only consequence of this disease which, during the first six months of 2018, has already infected more than 41,000 children and adults across Europe.

Despite the existence of a safe and effective vaccine to prevent it, measles is still one of the leading causes of infant mortality. It is a highly contagious disease that can leave very serious consequences in both children and adults. Complications from measles are more common in children under 5 years of age and in adults over 30.

Among other consequences, measles can cause encephalitis, blindness, very severe diarrhea, ear infections and pneumonia. In addition, according to the Castilla y León health portal, the measles virus has been linked to other diseases such as multiple sclerosis and subacute sclerosing panencephalitis. Finally, measles can cause death in any age group.

A very contagious virus

The measles virus is highly contagious, and this is one of the reasons why an epidemic can start relatively easily. A cough or sneeze is enough to spread it, and the virus can also be transmitted by an infected individual from four days before to four days after the appearance of the rash or rash.

To make matters worse, today there is no specific antiviral treatment that acts against the measles virus, and that is why the best way to deal with it is mass vaccination. In Spain, the measles vaccine is called Triple Viral, which also includes rubella and mumps. It is covered by Social Security and is supplied in two doses that are necessary to guarantee a correct immunization.

Due to the ease with which the measles virus spreads, the World Health Organization (WHO) advises that at least 95% immunization coverage is necessary to prevent outbreaks.

Record measles outbreak in Europe

Faced with the measles outbreak that is being experienced in Europe in 2018, the WHO has issued a statement in which it calls on all countries to take measures to stop its spread. “After reaching the lowest number of cases of the decade in 2016, we are seeing a dramatic increase in infections and outbreaks,” says Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO regional director.

In some European countries immunization coverage is very low. “This partial setback shows that each person who is not immune remains vulnerable no matter where they live and each country must continue to push to increase coverage,” explained Nedret Emiroglu, director of the Division of Health Emergencies and Communicable Diseases of the Regional Office of the WHO for Europe. The country most affected so far is Ukraine, which accounts for more than half of the measles cases in all of Europe.

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