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The sure way to stamp out measles

By Vision Reporter

Added 6th June 2011 03:00 AM

AT eight months, Precious developed a high temperature, accompanied by a rash, runny nose and watery red eyes. She was diagnosed with measles.
According to Dr. Deo Munube, a paediatrician at the Acute Care Unit, Mulago Hospital, measles is a highly contagious disease caused by a virus.

AT eight months, Precious developed a high temperature, accompanied by a rash, runny nose and watery red eyes. She was diagnosed with measles.
According to Dr. Deo Munube, a paediatrician at the Acute Care Unit, Mulago Hospital, measles is a highly contagious disease caused by a virus.

By Agnes Kyotalengerire
AT eight months, Precious developed a high temperature, accompanied by a rash, runny nose and watery red eyes. She was diagnosed with measles.
According to Dr. Deo Munube, a paediatrician at the Acute Care Unit, Mulago Hospital, measles is a highly contagious disease caused by a virus.

“The measles virus normally grows in the cells that line the back of the throat and lungs,” he says.

Symptoms
Mary Ganafa, the senior nursing officer in charge Stanfield Ward Mulago Hospital, says the symptoms usually develop 10-12 days after exposure to the virus. The disease presents with high fever, red lips, muscle pain, loss of appetite, a runny nose, cough, red and watery eyes as well as small white spots inside the mouth.

However, Ganafa explains that the most prominent feature is a rash which occurs after three days, starting from the back of the ears spreading to the face and whole body, and lasting for five to six days. “On average, the rash occurs 14 days after exposure to the virus,” she confirms.

Diagnosis
Florence Waiswa, a senior public health nurse and surveillance focal person at Mulago Hospital, says diagnosis of measles is usually based on the characteristic symptoms. To confirm infection, a blood sample is taken from the suspected patient.

Transmission
According to Waiswa, measles is highly contagious and spreads through droplets from the nose, mouth, or the throat of an infected person while sneezing and coughing. “Measles is contagious during the febrile time (when temperature is high) or from 1-2 days before symptoms start, until about four days, after the rash appears,” Waiswa cautions.

However, she affirms that children who have been vaccinated against measles have lifelong immunity to the disease. The vaccine is safe, effectual and affordable.

Infants are protected from measles for six months after birth due to the immunity passed on from their mothers.
For babies, the vaccine is part of the measles-mumps-rubella immunisation, which is given at nine months for free.
Ganafa says in case of an outbreak, the children are immunised at six months and vaccinations is repeated at nine months.

Complications<./b>
Munube says the major complications following measles are more common in children under the age of five. They include severe respiratory infections such as pneumonia, middle ear infection, blindness for those who get eye disease, encephalitis (an infection that causes swelling of the brain tissue) and sometimes inflammation of the liver tissue.

Who is prone?
Munube says young children who have not been vaccinated are at higher risk of measles and its complications. However, malnourished children and those with poor immunity such as those living with HIV/AIDS or cancers are at higher risk.

Treatment
Munube says there is no specific medical treatment for measles as it is a viral infection. However, symptomatic treatment along with plenty of fluid intake and adequate nutrition is recommended. Besides, patients should also have adequate rest and be kept in isolation to avoid further spread of infection.

Ganafa adds that antibiotics may be given to treat secondary bacterial infections of the eyes, ears and the lungs.

Calamine lotion may be applied to the rash and supplements with doses of vitamin A given on the first, second and 14th day from the time when signs show to prevent eye damage and blindness.

Prevention
Munube affirms that routine measles vaccination for children below nine months combined with national mass immunisation campaigns are key public health strategies to reduce global measles deaths.

“During the Child Day celebrations, we move out to communities to immunise those who could have missed out or give booster doses,” he says, adding that as opposed to the 2003/2004 outbreaks, the national immunisation campaigns have contributed a major reduction in the measles cases reported.

The sure way to stamp out measles

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