Measles: symptoms, treatment, epidemic, vaccination

Measles is a viral disease that is very contagious and is associated with an increased body temperature and a specific skin rash. In 1999 and 2000 there was a measles epidemic in the Netherlands. Around May 2013, there were outbreaks of measles around schools in the so-called Bible Belt. What are the causes of measles, the symptoms and how can the childhood disease be treated? Can you prevent someone from getting measles?

Article content

  • Measles or morbilli
  • Biblebelt
  • Vaccination
  • Causes of measles
  • Measles symptoms
  • Measles complications
  • Who is at extra risk of adverse consequences?
  • Measles diagnosis and treatment
  • Preventing measles


Measles or morbilli

Measles is a viral disease that is highly contagious and is associated with an elevated body temperature and a characteristic skin rash. It is called a childhood disease because young children in particular get measles. Due to the vaccination against measles since 1976, the disease no longer occurs often in the Netherlands. In developing countries, many people die from measles every year.


The Bible Belt is the area between the Veluwe and Zeeland. The people there are strictly religious and many parents refuse to have their children vaccinated against diseases. In the event of a measles outbreak, it is likely that measles, a highly contagious disease, will spread rapidly in the area. The last epidemic was in 1999 and 2000, even then it was mainly the Bible Belt that was affected.


Children in the Netherlands are offered a measles vaccination at the ages of fourteen months and nine years. Vaccination or experiencing measles provides lifelong immunity. Children are vaccinated because measles sometimes has complications that can even cause death (encephalitis).

Causes of measles

If someone carries the virus, it can be transmitted very quickly through droplets that enter the air during talking, coughing or sneezing. The incubation period varies from eight to fourteen days. Measles is contagious from a few days before the rash becomes visible until about five days afterwards.

Measles symptoms

The symptoms of measles usually occur ten days after infection:

  • An increased body temperature, sometimes above 40 degrees Celsius;
  • A sore throat;
  • Cough;
  • nose cold;
  • Sore eyes;
  • Before the rash appears, you will see small white dots on the cheek mucosa: Koplik spots;
  • These usually disappear when the rash appears: small orange-red bumps that you often see first on the face and then on the rest of the body, they merge into each other.


Measles complications

The complications that may occur are: inflammation of the middle ear, pneumonia and encephalitis. Viral encephalitis is a serious complication and can occur a week to ten days after the first symptoms.

Who is at extra risk of adverse consequences?

  • The older you are when you get measles, the greater the risk of complications.
  • People with a severely reduced immune system , for example due to treatment with cytostatics or due to a serious illness such as leukemia.
  • Children who are less than a year old, especially if the mother has not been vaccinated or has not had the measles.
  • Pregnant women should also pay attention: measles would not cause any abnormalities in the unborn child, but the risk of miscarriage or premature birth is greater.


Measles diagnosis and treatment

  • Based on the symptoms, a doctor will determine that it is measles.
  • Measles is a viral disease and therefore cannot be treated with medication. Rest is important and the increased body temperature can possibly be counteracted. If no complications occur, the symptoms of the disease will usually disappear after a week. If a bacterial infection occurs, a child will receive antibiotics.


Preventing measles

Children are vaccinated between the ages of twelve and fourteen months with a vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella (MMR). When the child is nine, the vaccination is repeated. If you have been vaccinated or have had measles, you are immune to it for life.

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