Measles is a highly infectious viral disease. In India, it continues to be a leading cause of childhood mortality.
Measles is spread through airborne droplets emitted through coughing and sneezing. The disease has no known treatments as of yet, but the use of a safe vaccine has enabled many countries to reduce incidence of the disease to low levels.
India, as of April 2018, has the highest number of cases of measles of any country according to World Health Organization (WHO) data. Worth noting is that these numbers fluctuate considerably on a yearly basis.
In 2017, for example, disease incidence figures were lauded as having fallen by 43 percent between 2015 and 2016. India reported 17,250 measles cases in 2016, down from 30,168 in 2015. These figures were projected to be the start of a campaign to eliminate measles by 2020. However, measles has since shown signs of a resurgence.
Vaccination coverage reportedly reached 88 percent in 2016. However, since then there have been multiple reports of schools not allowing health officials to administer vaccinations, which may be hindering efforts to reduce disease transmission.
Initially, the symptoms of measles resemble that of a cold or the flu, with a high fever, coughing and sneezing being common. Sore, red eyes and small grey to white spots on the inside of the cheeks may be present to distinguish the illness as the measles.
A few days following the initial symptoms, a red-brown blotchy rash will begin to appear. Typically this begins on the head or upper neck, slowly progressing to cause rashes across the rest of the body.
This is typically the extent of the symptoms, with recovery taking around seven to ten days. However, measles can lead to further complications that may even be fatal. Should the infection spread, conditions such as pneumonia and encephalitis may occur. These can be fatal and any sign of a deterioration in condition outside of the normal symptoms should be immediately addressed by a doctor.
Prevention and treatment
Currently there are no treatments outside of symptom management to deal with the flu-like symptoms resulting from the infection. Measles is, however, an entirely vaccine-preventable disease.
Currently, there is a campaign underway in India to administer forty crore (400 million) doses of the combined measles-rubella (MR) vaccine to children across the country. Such a project would drastically increase immunisation levels and could see the disease eliminated from India. This vaccine represents the best protection from the disease as prevention is a far more preferable option to dealing with the symptoms and risking further complications.