What is Measles?
Measles is an infection caused by Measles virus. The incubation period usually ranges from 7-18 days, but can be up to 21 days. Affected persons will present initially with fever, cough, runny nose, red eyes and white spots inside the mouth. This is followed 3 to 7 days later by a red blotchy skin rash, which usually spreads from face to the rest of the body. The rash usually lasts 4 - 7 days, but can persist for up to 3 weeks leaving with brownish staining and sometimes fine skin peeling. In severe cases, lung, gut and brain can get involved and lead to serious consequences or even death.
How does it spread?
This can be transmitted airborne by droplet spread or by direct contact with nasal or throat secretions of infected persons, and less commonly, by articles soiled with nose and throat secretions. Measles is one of the most highly communicable infectious diseases. The patient can pass the disease to other persons from 4 days before to 4 days after appearance of the rash.
How can you prevent it?
Travellers can protect themselves by observing good personal hygiene. They should always keep their hands clean and wash hands properly, especially after coughing and sneezing.
Vaccination against measles is the most effective preventive measure. In Hong Kong, children are given measles-containing vaccines at 1 year old and in Primary 1. The World Health Organization suggests that the vaccine can be given to infants at the age of 9 months if they were to travel to measles-affected areas where the death rate is high. Travellers should consult their doctor for advice if they are going to travel to measles-affected areas with an unvaccinated infant.
How is it treated?
Affected persons should avoid contact with non-immune persons, especially those with weakened immunity, pregnant women and infants. Although there is no specific treatment, drugs may be prescribed to reduce the symptoms and antibiotics may be used to treat bacterial complications.