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After Years Of Hearing Dangerous Falsehoods From Anti-Vaxxers, Here’s Everything You Need To Know About Measles

Here’s a fun fact: measles are so contagious that if one person has it, then 90% of nearby people who aren’t immune to it will become infected. Yikes. This is why it’s important to stay up to date with your vaccinations. Considering that the recent rise in measles cases has been linked to people failing to vaccinate, we figured we’d put together a list of facts and photos for those of you who have a morbid curiosity about the measles. 

*Just a warning, though – if you’re as squeamish as we are, you might find these photos graphic.*

1. Once you’re infected with the measles, there’s no cure.

Instagram / @maricel68

Okay, we had to start with the most dramatic fact. Basically, the only way to heal is to let the disease run its course. However, the symptoms can be managed. But, that doesn’t mean that once infected, you’re not contagious – and, of course,  getting the measles can make for one hell of an awful experience.

2. It can take almost two weeks for the disease to develop after being exposed.

Instagram / @staytunednbc

Generally speaking, symptoms appear between 10 to 12 days after being exposed to the virus. So you could think you’re in the clear after being in contact with someone who has the measles, but really, the sneaky sickness is just biding its time. 

3. The measles usually has four initial symptoms.

Instagram / @drlinda.m.d

These initial symptoms include a fever, a cough, a running nose, and inflamed eyes. The infamous measles rash usually starts to appear on the head a few days later, and from there, it spreads.

4. Most of the world’s measles outbreaks are located in Africa.

Instagram / @sfbex

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said that the most measles cases have been found in Africa, in countries like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Georgia, Madagascar, and Sudan. That being said, other countries such as Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, and Ukraine have also been pretty badly affected, too.

5. The measles vaccine has been in use since the 1960s.

Instagram / @vintagetribune

And the vaccine can be given either as a single immunization, or as a combined dose in a measles-rubella (MR), measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), or measles-mumps-rubella-varicella (MMRV) vaccine. That’s right: you can get a two-for-one deal like you do at your favorite restaurant! Or four-in-one – if you’re like us and hate having needles stuck in your arm.

6. 7 million people were affected by measles in 2016.

Instagram / @pharmacydaily

Which is wild, considering that global measles deaths actually decreased by over 84 percent between 2000 and 2016.

7. Most deaths from measles happen due to economic and healthcare barriers.

Instagram / @johnshopkinsccp

The fact that anyone’s dying from measles in this day and age is a travesty. But, kids and babies don’t have strong enough immune systems to fight off the disease, and so it’s more common for them to eventually succumb to it. This happens even more so in countries with low per capita incomes and weak healthcare systems.

8. Contracting measles can result in some pretty messed-up complications.

Instagram / @mariwalladermatology

These complications can include blindness; an infection called encephalitis, which causes brain swelling; severe diarrhea and dehydration; and respiratory infections, like pneumonia. These kinds of complications can result in lifelong disabilities and brain damage. Bueno.

9. Measles can be transmitted by fluid from the nose, mouth or throat from infected people.

Instagram / @katehewsonevans

Since it’s an airborne disease, it means that measles can easily be transmitted through coughing sneezing. This is why it’s very important for people who have contracted measles to wear a face mask since that’ll prevent the disease from spreading!

10. The measles goes by a total of five different names.

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Beyond just the standard “measles” title, it is sometimes called morbilli, rubeola, red measles, and English measles.

11. The measles caused 110,000 deaths in 2017.

Instagram / @mohamed.newsman

Even worse, complications happen in up to a quarter of cases for the measles – and these complications don’t discriminate between low- and high-income countries. 

12. Measles is almost entirely preventable.

Instagram / @lou_volunteer

So even though there’s no cure, two doses of the measles immunization are the best way to protect against the disease – especially since those who don’t have a strong enough immune system to be vaccinated are protected by people who do get the vaccine. However, WHO estimates that at this point, only 85 percent of the population has been vaccinated against it … with only the first dose. For outbreaks to be prevented, 95 percent of the global population needs to get both doses of the vaccine.

13. Cases of the disease have risen by 300 percent worldwide. 

Instagram / @saintjameshealth

This. Is. Wild. 28,124 measles cases were recorded last year … and that’s only the ones that were reported. The Americas have seen an increase in cases by about 60 percent.

14. The first recorded instance of the measles was sometime around the 9th century.

Instagram / @littlelotuspediatrics

A Persian physician, Rhazes, published a book called The Book of Smallpox and Measles.

15. 21 strains of the measles virus have been discovered.

Instagram / @medpage

This basically means that the measles has got 21 different forms that it can take to attack the body.

16. The disease can be seen as a test of sufficient vaccination levels within a population.

Instagram / @lovewhatmatters

This is because measles outbreaks can easily occur in populations that are under-vaccinated. FYI, guys: if a community is affected by a measles outbreak, then it leaves the population at an increased risk for mortality from other diseases for up to two to three years afterward.

17. Measles as an endemic disease was eliminated from the US in 2000.

Instagram / @afshineemrani

The reason why it hasn’t been completely eradicated is that carriers of the disease have traveled into the US, bringing the disease with them. Unvaccinated people then contract measles, making it spread.

18. In 1531, a measles outbreak caused the deaths of half of the population of Honduras.

Instagram / @the_neo_life

Two years beforehand, an outbreak killed two-thirds of natives who had previously survived smallpox. Measles is brutal stuff.

19. As of 2018, measles is the leading cause of vaccine-preventable deaths in the world.

Instagram / @vaccines_cause_adults2010

It’s also the leading cause of vaccine-preventable childhood mortalities. Really, guys, prevention is key to fighting this disease.

20. Mothers who have immunity to measles pass on their antibodies to children in the womb.

Instagram / @mentormedicine

Typically, the mothers have to have had contracted the disease to pass on these antibodies. But before you think that this is a good reason to contract measles … these antibodies only kinda-sorta protect newborns from the measles. And, usually, they’re lost within the first nine months of life anyway.

So the moral of the story is: take this article as a reminder to stay up to date with your vaccinations! Was there anything that surprised you about the measles, or are you a hypochondriac who already knows all about it? Tell us about it on our Facebook page – you can find it by clicking on the logo at the top of the page.

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