Medical experts say that measles causes 20 per cent of deaths among Kenyan children aged five years and below. Measles is recorded as one of the most contagious diseases known to man and almost all children who have not been immunised contract it if exposed to the virus. Apart from the immunisation, children are also given vitamin A supplements to boost their resistance against the disease. Measles is very infectious as it is transmitted through droplets from coughs and sneezes. Upon being infected, it takes around 10 days for symptoms to appear. Most children recover within a week or so and should have lifelong immunity to the disease.

Symptoms of measles…

  • A fever with temperature above 37.5 degrees.
  • Runny nose, sore red eyes and coughing.
  • General ill health and fatigue.
  • Tiny white spots inside the cheeks.
  • A blotchy rash of brownish-red spots, usually on the head or neck, first spreading downwards. It appears a few days after the fever and goes after about three days.
  • Sometimes stomachache, diarrhoea, vomiting and swollen glands.

Treatment and recovery

Diagnosis of measles is usually confirmed by a saliva test. Measles, like mumps, is a virus, so antibiotics cannot be used to treat it. However, your child may be prescribed them anyway to help treat complications that arise as a result of the illness, such as an ear infection. Give your child the correct dose of infant paracetamol to control fever, and also give plenty of fluids. If your child’s eyes are sore, bathe them in cool water. Ensure the room she is in is not very bright as it may bother her eyes. Several researches done over time show that around one in 15 people develop complications after contacting measles. These can include bronchitis, ear infections and pneumonia. Although encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain is rare, if it occurs, it can cause permanent brain damage and maybe fatal. Complications are more likely to affect poorly nourished or chronically ill children and those with diseases of the immune system such as leukemia.

Published in December 2013