Measles is one of the main causes of death in young children.
There is now a safe and cost-effective measles vaccine. Due to large vaccination campaigns, the number of deaths caused by measles is also significantly reduced.
However, in countries with weak health structures, or among people with limited access to health services, coverage remains low and large-scale epidemics occur.
Vaccination is the best form of protection against measles. Even after the disease has spread, vaccination can still reduce the number of cases and deaths. The problem is that to prevent new outbreaks, at least 95% of the population must be immune.
Transmission and treatment of measles
Measles is caused by a virus so contagious that 90 percent of non-immune people living with an infected person become infected; one sick person can infect up to 18 others. It is spread from the nose, mouth or throat of infected people through coughing, sneezing and breathing.
There is no specific antiviral treatment for measles and people are treated for symptoms such as fever. Care includes isolating patients and treating complications. Most people recover within two to three weeks, but in low-resource settings, up to 15 percent of people infected with measles die from one or more of these complications. Children, especially those under the age of five and those who may have other immune-suppressing conditions such as severe malnutrition, make up the majority of those who die from the disease.
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