Monday , October 3 2022

Why parents should be afraid of measles rather than vaccine


The oxygen flow was maximum, but it was not enough to keep Alia. In the night her lungs, damaged by measles, fail.

Alia was one of the hundreds of measles children I was caring for in a special ward in Kenya's National Hospital in 1972 before a measles vaccine was available. I saw all the possible complications of measles, many of them endangering life. They left me with deep respect for this once common viral infection in childhood.

As an infection specialist, I celebrated the gradual disappearance of measles cases in Canada after the introduction of routine measles vaccination in the mid-1970s. Today most doctors have never seen a case. Parents are also not aware of measles, and some doubt that they should avoid it even if they treat it as a trivial disease.

Given the recent outbreaks of measles in Canada, the United States and globally, it is a good idea to remember what this disease is.

Nausea, vomiting and fever

Morbilito is not trivial. This is the worst than ever-usual childhood infections. It is highly contagious and difficult to recognize until the rash appears later in the disease.

Six decades later I remember that I was like a childish child: a fever that went on for days, headaches, trembling and immersion. I remember lying on the floor beside my bed, too sick to sit in a chair while my mother changed the sheets.

This is the normal progression of measles that causes considerable suffering to a sick child and their parents for seven to ten days, even in the absence of complications. There is no antiviral drug to treat the disease or its complications.

The infection begins in the airways, with nose obstruction, sore throat, red eyes and growing cough. Unlike common colds, measles worsen for several days, causing a higher temperature (often up to 40 ° C or 104 ° F) and putting children in bed with nausea, vomiting, chills and headaches.

This phase before the rash lasts for about four days, during which the infected person throws huge amounts of viruses around, as measles are highly contagious. A person with measles can infect 75 to 90% of susceptible members of a household by coughing and sneezing viruses in the air.

Communication is particularly high in group settings, such as day and school classrooms, but can only happen with short-term exposure to an infected person.

Contagious before the symptoms appear

Morbilito hides its identity. Often not until the fifth day of the disease, the distinctive rash covers the body, revealing the diagnosis of measles. Children, however, are infected three to four days before a rash occurs when the symptoms mimic a cold or a flu infection.

Measles can lead to pneumonia, brain damage and other complications.

Unlike colds and flu, measles infection extends beyond the airways, spreading through the bloodstream to the skin and other organs. The rash of measles results from the fact that the child's immune system "catches" and attacks the viruses in the skin.

Any delay in immune activation, which may occur in malnutrition or immune disorders, prolongs the virus and increases tissue damage.

When a rash occurs, it marks the tip of the disease and signals the beginning of the recovery. The fever will soon disappear, although the child will still be contagious for a few more days and will cure another one to two weeks.

Encephalitis and brain damage

The rate of hospitalization for measles is highest for children under the age of five – ranging from 9% to 25% in Western countries.

Complications occur in about one in three young children with measles.

Common complications in the United States include otitis media (otitis) in 14% of reported cases, diarrhea with the risk of dehydration at eight percent and pneumonia at nine percent, the last caused by the virus or invading bacteria.

Inflammation of the brain or encephalitis with convulsions and coma is the most dangerous complication that occurs in one in 1,000 cases. One of three survivors of encephalitis has residual brain damage. A fatal outcome was reported in two cases per 1000 cases of measles in the United States, mainly in children with impaired immunity.

In short, measles are not trivial. This is at best worrying and at worst – endangering life. Parents should be afraid of this. The rational alternative is to ensure that children are fully immune to measles, given the excellent safety and protection offered by the measles vaccine.

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