Measles, also known as Rubeola, is an extremely contagious respiratory infection. It is generally contracted during childhood, but can be contracted later in life as well. Measles is caused by a virus which manifests as a rash which covers the entire body, along with a cough, runny nose, fever, and other flu-like symptoms. Due tot he fact that measles is caused by a virus, there is no medical treatment to “cure” it. Once contracted, it must simply run it’s course.
The first signs of measles infection are a high fever, runny nose, red, irritated eyes, and a hacking cough. The actual rash itself, which many people incorrectly believe to be the onset of measles, actually doesn’t manifest itself until 3-5 days after the onset of the virus. Once the rash appears, it is often accompanied by fevers which can reach dangerously high levels, such as 104°F. The rash generally begins on the forehead in the form of flat, bright red spots. It ten spreads quickly down the body, and normally disappears within a few days.
The measles virus is highly contagious: among those who have not been vaccinated against it, approximately 90% will contract the virus if they come into contact with an infected individual. The measles virus is spread via breathing in or having other direct contact with bodily fluids of an infected person, such as droplets spread into the air from coughing or sneezing. Once exposed, an individual may take as long as 8-10 days to begin showing symptoms. The measles virus is actually contagious from 4 days prior to the appearance of the rash and for 4 days after it initially appears. It is at it’s most contagious during the time that the affected person is suffering from the fever, cough, and runny nose.
Since there is no treatment to get rid of the virus itself, the only thing that can be done for a person suffering from measles is to make them as comfortable as possible and alleviate the symptoms with Ibuprofen for fever, aches and pains (never give aspirin or products containing aspirin to children under the age of 16). The affected person should drink plenty of water and other fluids in order to avoid dehydration. A soft, damp cloth can be used to keep the eye area clean and reduce irritation. Soft, loose-fitting clothing is best so as not to irritate the rash.
Most people who are dealing with the measles virus are more comfortable and better able to rest in a darkened room. Keeping the individual as comfortable and well-rested as possible is conducive to a speedy recovery with as few lingering effects as possible once the measles virus has run it’s course.