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    • MEASLES: THE NEXT TARGET AFTER POLIO

      Dr Kamal Asnani
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      Measles is a viral disease which is scientifically known as Rubella. It is a very contagious disease as the infection can easily spread by the contact of droplets released from the nose, mouth, or throat during coughing or sneezing by an infected individual.

      Measles is a major cause of mortality in children worldwide. In India, annually about 21 million children below the age of 5 years are affected with measles virus infection and about 16 million develop clinical measles. Also, about 200,000 children in India lose their life annually in India due to measles or its complications. About a third of the measles deaths around the world are taking place in India. It has been decades since the massive launch of measles vaccines but still a lot more needs to be done to eradicate measles in India. Measles death in India in the period of 2000 to 2010 has decreased by only 26% whereas it has decreased by 78% in the South East Asian region.

      The incubation period lasts for 8 to 12 days after the virus has infected and the symptoms usually begin after this period. The symptoms include bloodshot eyes, irritation in eyes and light sensitivity, fever, cough, body pain, rashes usually starting from head and then proceed to the entire body, itchiness, and small white spots inside the mouth called Koplik’s spots. The diagnosis is testing for Measles serology and viral culture.

      Although no specific treatment is given for measles however the symptoms can be relieved by acetaminophen (Tylenol), complete bed rest and humidified air. Vitamin A deficient people are found to be more susceptible to infections including measles thus vitamin A supplementation is given especially to children living in less developed countries. Measles may lead to further complications like bronchitis, encephalitis (rare), ear infections and pneumonia.

      People who have had active measles in their lifetime or those who are vaccinated are immune to the disease. The MMR vaccine is generally recommended for the prevention of Measles, Mumps and Rubella in the children. Regular vaccination is the best method for preventing measles. All children and some undernourished adolescents and adults are recommended two doses of MMR vaccine.

      The first dose of vaccination is given at the age of 12 to 15 months and the second dose is given at the age of 4 to 6 years. The disease can be made a less severe by taking serum immune globulin after being exposed to the virus.

      Measles can be eradicated from India just like polio when there is complete immunization coverage. Doctors and health workers need to be trained and sensitized with regular surveillance and other laboratory support for effective immunization campaign in India.

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