Posted by chads on November 11, 2006
I have been a practicing physician for over 3 years in the United States and I have never seen a case of measles. My wife’s grandfather remembers “red measles” (as opposed to “German measles,” or rubella) going through “the whole family and the whole town.” Measles was a part of life; 90% of children had measles before they were 15 until a vaccine was licensed in the US in 1963.
Measles is now a disease of the poor. Virtually unheard of in countries like the US (fewer than a few hundred cases a year), it continues to kill thousands of children in developing countries despite the fact that it is easily preventable. Estimates in 2004 put 454,000 children dying of measles in 2004. That number has been steadily declining since 1999, likely due to mass immunization campaigns.
Measles is caused by a virus, and transmitted by respiratory secretions. Approximately 2 weeks after contracting the virus, the child gradually develops a fever, followed by the “3 C’s”: cough, coryza (runny nose), and conjunctivitis (red eyes). A characteristic rash then develops. Most recover without further problems. Complications that can lead to death include dehydration due to diarrhea, pneumonia (infection of the lungs), and encephalitis. (Manson’s Tropical Diseases) The mortality rate (percentage of those who get the disease and die from it) ranges from 0.1% to 25%, due to malnutrition and vitamin deficiencies.