Measles outbreak: What to do if you catch this HIGHLY contagious infection

17th Jan 18 | Lifestyle

Outbreaks of measles have been confirmed. Here's what to do if you or a family member display the unpleasant symptoms.

Sick girl is sitting near the bed

Itchy and painful, measles isn’t just uncomfortable to contract – it can also lead to extremely serious health complications.

This highly contagious infection is uncommon thanks to an effective vaccination, but a recent outbreak has seen more than 100 confirmed cases across the UK and Ireland over the last few months.

Worried about catching it? From spotting the telltale symptoms to getting vaccinated, here’s everything you need to know…

What are measles?

Measles is a highly infectious viral illness, that can lead to serious complications and can even be fatal.

It spreads through the tiny droplets that are naturally expelled during coughing and sneezing. People become infected by inhaling the droplets, or by touching a surface that has been contaminated and then rubbing their noses or mouths.

Who can catch it?

The NHS warns that anyone can get measles if they haven’t been vaccinated or they haven’t had it before, although it’s most common in young children.

What are the symptoms?

In the initial stages of contracting the virus, signs of measles include cold-like symptoms such as: sensitivity to light, red eyes, fever and greyish white spots in the mouth and throat.

After a few days a rash often begins to appear and distinctive red-brown blotches spring up on the body, typically beginning behind the neck and spreading downwards.

Measles can lead to severe complications, including miscarriage in pregnant women, brain swelling and the risk of death from pneumonia.

Is there a treatment?

No, there is no specific treatment for the infection, but the body’s immune system should fight off the illness in a couple of weeks with plenty of bed rest. In severe cases, hospital treatment may be needed.

The NHS recommends paracetamol or ibuprofen to relieve fever, aches and pains. You should also stay off from work or school to avoid passing the infection on to other people.

How can it be prevented?

Getting the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine is the most effective way to prevent measles.

Parents should note that the first MMR vaccination should be given when a child is 13 months old, followed by a booster vaccination before they start school.

To prevent outbreaks such as this recent spate of cases, doctors recommend that at least 95% of the population is immunised.

However, only 91.9% of UK children were vaccinated against measles between 2015 and 2016, compared to 94.2% the year before.

The World Health Organisation has said that complacency and fear of needles means young children in particular are more susceptible to infection.

© Press Association 2018