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Measles Outbreak 2014: What You Need To Know About The Disease

Mar 31, 2014 at 3:26 PM Chime in now

Measles Outbreak 2014: What You Need To Know About The Disease

Dave Haygarth/Flickr

We often associate measles with children and as being more common outside North America. But the highly contagious disease has made a comeback, infecting dozens of people, including adults across the country in the past few weeks. Canadian cases have popped up in several areas, including Fraser Valley, B.C., Manitoba, Ottawa, Hamilton, Burlington and Mississauga.

So what do you need to know about the condition?
Measles spreads through close or direct contact with secretions from an infected person's coughs/sneezes. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, measles is so contagious that 90 per cent of people who are not immune -- and come into contact with an infected person -- will catch the virus.
Symptoms usually begin 10 or 12 days after infection, according to the World Health Organization. It starts with a high fever, small white spots on the inside of the cheeks, coughing, a runny nose and red and watery eyes. A rash then forms on the upper neck and face, spreading to the rest of the body within the next three days. Infected people are most contagious four days before and four days after rashes appear, the CDC notes.
The latest measles outbreak raised concerns about whether children and adults are getting vaccinated. The disease is increasingly spreading to adults who received no vaccination or merely one dose (the Government of Canada suggests people receive two). While some falsely believe vaccinations have negative implications (such as causing autism in children), others do not get them for religious beliefs.
There is no treatment for measles, other than preventing the disease through immunization.

You can avoid some serious complications from the disease if you contract it, however, by drinking lots of fluids to stay hydrated, eating nutritious food and taking the appropriate antibiotics to treat related conditions like pneumonia and eye and ear infections. Whether or not you get immunized (although it is the best way to prevent the spread of measles), if you suspect you or someone else has measles, the Public Health Agency of Canada recommends immediately reporting it to local public health.

Patients will then, likely, be isolated for several days after rashes appear, when the disease is most infectious, and to prevent its spread.

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