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Serum - Protection from birth onwards

What is Measles?

Measles is a viral disease. Not everyone recognizes measles as a serious disease, which it really is. Measles can be deadly. The 10th Century Persian physician, Rhazes considered measles "to be dreaded more than smallpox." Measles still kills about a million people a year around the world.

Who are susceptible of Measles?

All unvaccinated newborns are at danger from Measles. Usually children become susceptible to Measles around the age of nine months, probably because they are protected up to this period by the antibodies (proteins that protect against a disease) against Measles, received from their mothers.

How does Measles spread?

Measles is a highly contagious disease, which spreads through air. Mere sneezing by an infected child in a group of children can easily spread this virus. It spreads so easily that any child who is exposed to it and is not immune will probably get it. One can get measles from an infected person who coughs or sneezes around you or even talks to you.

What is the prevalence of Measles in India and the world over?

Measles is a leading cause of childhood deaths. Every year around 3 million cases of Measles are seen and about 900,000 children die because of Measles around the world. In India everyday, 500 children die because of Measles. The most worrying part is that the vaccine coverage against Measles in India is only 66% and even below 50% in many states.

What are the symptoms and adverse effects of Measles?

The symptoms of Measles start about 10 days after the infection and include high fever (103oF - 105o F), running nose, cough, and redness of eyes (pin head sized bluish white spots on a red base occur in the mouth. The child loses weight and remains weak for several days). Rash appears behind the ears and spreads rapidly over the face and the neck extending downwards reaching the hands and feet over the next three days. The rash fades in the same order leaving a brownish discolouration, which persists for two months or more. In general the disease is very trouble some for the child. In fact, the term "measles" probably comes from a Latin word meaning "miserable."

Complications of measles:

For most children, measles means a rash and cold, and missing a few days of school. But there are several complications caused by measles. These are:

  • About 1 out of every 10 children who get measles also get an ear infection (Otitis media).
  • Upto 1 out of 20 of them get pneumonia.
  • About 1 child in every 1,000 who get measles get encephalitis. (Encephalitis is an inflammation of the brain that can lead to convulsions, and can leave your child deaf or mentally retarded.)
  • Out of every 1,000 children who get measles, 1 or 2 die from it. In developing countries (like India), where malnutrition and vitamin A deficiency is prevalent, measles has been known to kill as many as one out of four children.
  • Diarhoea and pneumonia are other complications of measles which can cause death
  • Measles can also cause permanent brain damage
  • In some countries measles causes blindness
  • Measles can also lead to degenerative disease of nervous system named as SSPE (Subacute Sclerosing Pan Encephalitis). SSPE can further cause paralysis.

These complications are more common among children under 5 years of age and adults over 20 years old.

What is the treatment for Measles?

Few drugs like Interferon, Vitamin A, may be used for the treatment of Measles. Moreover, certain antibodies are required to treat ear and chest complications as well as chemotherapeutic agents have been tried for the treatment of Measles (SSPE) but unfortunately these remedies are not very effective and hence vaccination is a better way to prevent complications of Measles. Measles is a completely preventable disease.

When should the vaccine be taken?

The first dose of Measles should be given at the age of 9 months (M-Vac). However, it has been observed that a single dose of Measles is not enough for effective eradication of this disease. Therefore, a second dose against Measles as MMR (Tresivac) should be administered at the age of 12-15 months.

What is the vaccination schedule if the above doses are missed?

If both of these doses are missed, then a child can still be given the vaccine. This should be done at the earliest possible stage. If the child is below one year, he must be given the measles vaccine (M-Vac) and if the child is above one year he must be vaccinated by administering a dose of MMR (Tresivac) at the earliest, up to the age of 12-13 years.

How long does this vaccine offer protection against Measles?

Usually two doses against Measles (first M-Vac at 9 months and Tresivac at 12-15 months) offer long term protection. Clinical data is available showing antibody titers well above the minimal limits up to 16 years after vaccination.

What are the side effects of this vaccine?

Usually both M-Vac as well as MMR (Tresivac) are well tolerated. However, in rare cases there are some chances of mild reactions, usually low/mild fever and slight rash.