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Why Health Experts Are Concerned About a Possible New Surge of Measles

Measles is a highly contagious viral infection that primarily affects children below five years. The disease was once common and caused many deaths before introducing a measles vaccine in 1963. However, health experts are concerned the disease could surge again and cause mass death, especially to children.

Signs and Symptoms

The disease’s incubation period is 10 to 14 days when signs and symptoms start to appear. Measles may be confused with the common cold because the signs and symptoms are similar. People suffering from this disease may present the following signs and symptoms.

  • Dry Cough
  • Soar Throat
  • Fever
  • Inflamed eyes
  • Koplik’s spots. These are spots with a red background found in the patients’ mouth or the inner lining of the cheeks.
  • Skin Rash

The disease has four main stages that occur in two to three weeks. These stages occur in the following sequence.

Contagion and Incubation Period

This stage happens 10 to 14 days after a patient gets infected with the virus. The measles virus incubates in the patient’s body, where it adapts to its new environment and starts to multiply and infect new cells. Patients show no signs and symptoms at this initial stage of infection.

Nonspecific Signs and Symptoms

The nonspecific signs and symptoms immediately follow the incubation period and start 10 to 14 days after infection. At this stage, measles manifests with different symptoms like dry cough, sore throat, runny nose, inflamed eyes, and mild to moderate fever. This stage may last for two to four days before advancing to a more acute phase.

Acute Stage and Skin Rash

The acute phase is a more advanced stage of the disease, and it manifests as tiny red spots on the skin that may be slightly elevated. These spots give the skin a red appearance. These spots first appear on the patient’s face and later spread to the rest of the body.

Over the next few days, after rashes appear on the face, they later spread to the other parts of the body. The rashes spread to the infected person’s arms and trucks and later to the legs, starting with the upper legs, especially the thighs, the lower feet, and finally the feet marking the end of the spread.

At this stage, fever rises sharply, reaching as high as 105.8 F. Measles patients are very uncomfortable and require close attention and care from close friends and family members and medical attention. Finally, the red spots start to recede following the same sequence they appeared, starting with the face, then the thighs, and finally the lower feet.

Measles Communicable Stage

The infectious stage is a phase that lasts for eight days during the infection period. At this stage, patients can spread the disease to other healthy people. The infectious stage starts a few days before the rashes appear and four to five days after the appearance of the rashes.

Causes of Measles

Measles is a contagious viral infection caused by viruses that replicate in the upper respiratory system of an infected person. The virus may infect children or adults, but many cases are recorded in children who are not vaccinated against the disease. When an infected person coughs or sneezes, infected saliva droplets are sprayed in the air, where healthy people inhale them and become infected.

Moreover, these droplets may land on surfaces and remain infectious for hours. Whenever you touch these surfaces and put your hands in the mouth, nose, or eyes, you may contract the disease. More than 90% of susceptible people who contact infected people contract the disease.

Since the measles vaccine was introduced in 1963, the widespread immunization cases of measles have decreased drastically. However, studies have shown that we may face a resurgence of the disease in the next few years.

What Could Cause Resurgence of Measles

After the COVID 19 hit the world in the last two years, there has been a decrease in childhood immunization against diseases like measles. Health experts are concerned about this tread, fearing a resurgence of this highly contagious disease.

During the pandemic, many countries had to impose lockdowns on their citizens and restricted movement from one point to the other. Thus many children were withheld from routine medical care, including the vaccination. In addition, our hospitals have been overwhelmed and therefore unable to offer standard services like children immunization.

A study conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2019 showed an alarming trend of measles disease worldwide. This study showed that measles cases had risen by more than 300 % in the first three months of 2019 compared to the data collected at the same time in 2018.

This study also showed that many countries are already amid measles outbreaks. All regions of the world are experiencing an increase in measles cases. Developing countries found in some parts of Asia and Africa have already reported an explosion of measles, causing many deaths, especially children under the age of five years.

A similar study was conducted in the US by the CDC in 10 different jurisdictions and showed a significant decrease in childhood immunization. According to Dr. Adaora Stefania Uzodi, a pediatric infectious disease specialist, the immunization rate has decreased by 63% in some parts of the United States.

This decrease in the number of vaccinated children puts them at risk of contracting the deadly disease. Once these unvaccinated children go to school, they are at significant risk of contracting the disease and thus have an outbreak of measles in the United Stated that may be deadly and hard to control.

What Can We Do To Prevent the Resurgence?

Pediatricians across the United States are catching up with the situation, trying to reverse the adverse effects of unimmunized children. They are reaching out to their patients and setting up appointments for immunizations that may have been missed during the pandemic and the lockdown.

In addition, there has been a rise in the anti-vaccination movements that are crippling the government and the health sector’s efforts to curb measles outbreaks. Thus parents are advised to consult experts when deciding on their Children’s vaccination exercise. Parents are also encouraged to ensure their children get vaccinated at the right time to avoid the resurgence of measles.