How Deadly Is The Measles? Symptoms, Prevention And Treatment

How Deadly Is The Measles? Symptoms, Prevention And Treatment

Measles is an infectious disease that is most commonly seen in children. However, this disease can lead to death and other health complications. Learn more in this article.

Measles is a childhood infection that became less common after the development of an effective vaccine. However, in the midst of a global outbreak due to a growing disregard for the vaccine, doctors have reportedly warned that measles is even more serious than most people realize. So how deadly is measles really? Read on to find out.

How deadly is measles?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 30 per cent of all reported cases are linked to one or more complications. Examples of typical complications include vomiting, eye and ear infections, diarrhoea and seizures.

However, after discussing with three people who suffered hepatitis, viral meningitis and appendicitis because of measles, doctors at the Mater Dei Hospital published in the British Medical Journal that measles can lead to ‘many and varied’ conditions affecting all organs.

is measles deadly

Usually, most people with measles make a recovery within a week, but Dr Thelma Xerri and colleagues have tried to show the public how serious things can become. Severe conditions that may arise due to measles include febrile seizures, pneumonia and encephalomyelitis. Another complication that may occur is a progressive disorder that permanently damages the nervous system, according to the doctors.

As for the three people the doctors discussed in their report, one of them, a 29-year old man who only took one of the two doses of the vaccine, developed inflammation of the liver (hepatitis) on his second day at the hospital – the same day his measles rash surfaced. Before coming to the hospital, he had suffered four days of occasional fever with chills and vomiting.

While an 18-year old British woman, who has never taken the vaccine, came to the hospital with a rash over her stomach, face and limbs for three days, as well as a dry cough. She was diagnosed with measles with appendicitis, which kept her at the hospital for two weeks. Another middle aged man was found to have an inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord after being diagnosed with measles. All of these cases point to how serious measles is, serving to caution those who have not had the complete vaccine.

What are the signs and symptoms of measles?

signs and symptoms of measles

Image: Raider

Usually, the signs and symptoms of measles appear after ten to fourteen days of contracting the infection. Signs and symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Dry cough
  • Runny nose
  • Large rashes with flat blotches that run into another
  • Inflamed eyes
  • Koplik’s spots—some kind of small white spots that appear inside the mouth on the inner lining of the cheek

The stages of measles

For the duration of two or three weeks, the infection happens in the following stages:

  • Infection and incubation:

The measles virus incubates for the first 10 to 15 days after you get infected. During this period you’re free of any signs and symptoms.

  • Nonspecific signs and symptoms:

Measles usually begins with a mild fever, then cough, runny nose, sore throat, and inflamed eyes follow. These may last for two or three days.

  • Acute illness and rash:

The rash breaks out on the face first. The rash is small and red in nature, with some slightly raised. They appear in groups, giving the skin a spotty look. Then after a few days, the rash travels down to the arms and trunk, with the fever rising at the time. Gradually, the rash will begin to disappear, first from the face and then from the thighs and feet.

get vaccinated

  • Spreading stage:

This is the period during which a person with measles can spread it, usually for about eight days, starting four days before the rash appears and ending when the rash has lasted for four days.

Prevention tips

You can prevent measles by having the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine, consisting of two doses. The first dose is administered around 13-months of age, and the second around 3 years and four months. As an adult or an older child, you can get the vaccination if you haven’t had the full dose. Talk to your doctor about it. However, if the vaccine is not suitable for you, there’s an option of giving you a treatment called human normal immunoglobulin (HNIG). The treatment can be given to you if you’re at immediate risk of catching measles.

Tips to relieve measles symptoms


The following tips may help ease some of the symptoms of measles:

  • Avoid dehydration by drinking plenty of water.
  • Reduce light sensitivity by drawing the curtains.
  • Clean your eyes with clean damp cotton wool.
  • Don’t go to school or work for at least four days from when the rash appears.

If you’re not sure whether anyone in your family is fully vaccinated, you should check your family’s vaccination history or maybe talk to your doctor. Also, if you suspect that anyone in your family has contracted measles, please see your doctor immediately.

Also read: Toddler Rashes: Watch Out For These 15 Common Children’s Skin Conditions


Written by

Lydia Ume