Why are measles so contagious?

Why are measles so contagious?

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Why the measles virus is particularly easy to transmit

Regional measles outbreaks have been reported time and again in recent months, mostly with low vaccination rates as the cause. But why are measles viruses so easily transmitted if there is no vaccine protection? The expert Dr. Nipunie Rajapakse from the renowned Mayo Clinic (USA) explains which factors make measles so easily dangerous.

Measles is one of the most contagious infectious diseases worldwide, emphasizes Dr. Nipunie Rajapakse in a press release from Majo Clinic. The virus is spread through the air. When coughing and sneezing, the pathogens enter the room air with tiny droplets and can thus be inhaled by others. In the worst case, the supposedly harmless infectious disease can also lead to the death of those affected. According to the expert, around one or two infected children die from the consequences of the disease.

Transmission via the indoor air

Although the virus has to be inhaled to cause an infection, "the tiny droplet germs can remain in the air for up to two hours after a person with measles has left a room," explains Dr. Rajapakse. This is how you can get measles without having to face a sick person face to face. It cannot be checked who previously breathed the same indoor air. That is why vaccinations are so important.

Vaccination offers effective protection

The so-called MMR vaccine (measles, mumps and rubella) is used against measles. According to the recommendation of the Standing Vaccination Commission (STIKO), the first vaccination should be given between the ages of 11 and 14 months. In exceptional cases (during an outbreak, after possible contact with a sick person), the MMR vaccination can take place from the age of nine months. However, there are also catch-up opportunities for non-vaccinated people, says Dr. "If you are an adult and have never been vaccinated, there are catch-up plans to get all the recommended vaccines for your age group," emphasizes the expert. If the vaccination status is unclear, Dr. recommends Rajapakse to consult your own family doctor.

What are the symptoms of measles?

An infection with measles viruses shows up after a good week (or a little longer) incubation period with symptoms like

  • Fever,
  • Rash with red, flat spots that often start on the head and spread downwards,
  • dry cough,
  • runny nose,
  • Sore throat,
  • tiny white spots with bluish-white centers on a red background, which are located in the mouth on the inside of the cheek (so-called "Koplik spots")
  • and conjunctivitis.

Possible complications

The complications of measles infection, according to Dr. Nipunia Rajapakse ear infections, pneumonia and encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) occur. The latter threatens permanent brain damage and there is a risk to life for those affected. For every 1,000 children who get measles in the United States, there are one to two deaths, the expert reports, citing the figures from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC; US health authority). (fp)

Author and source information

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