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  • James Tippett MD

The Measles – Rubeola Virus


The measles is a highly contagious illness caused by the rubeola virus. The infection begins in the nose and throat and the initial symptoms are very similar to the flu or the common cold. However, the measles results in conjunctivitis (inflammation and redness of the eyes) with photophobia (light sensitivity), a severe hacking cough, and high spiking fever. Approximately 4 days after these symptoms occur, a splotchy red rash appears on the face and descends to involve the trunk and extremities, sparing the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. A person with this illness is contagious approximately 4 days before symptoms occur and 5-7 days after the onset of the symptoms.


The rubeola virus spreads much like the flu. When the infected person coughs or sneezes, tiny droplets containing the virus are dispersed into the air and if other people breathe these droplets, they become infected and ill. Additionally, just like the flu virus, the droplets can land on inanimate objects and survive several hours. If a susceptible individual (one who has not been vaccinated or previously had the measles) touches that object, then touches their mouth, nose, or eyes, they can become ill with the measles. Estimations are that 90% of people who are exposed, will become sick.


So, some of you might wonder what is so bad about contracting a self -limiting viral illness? First of all, the illness can be very disabling and miserable, lasting up to 3 weeks and interrupting work, school, etc. Also, there is risk of potentially severe complications including bacterial ear infections that can result in permanent hearing loss, as well as life threatening pneumonia and encephalitis (infection of the brain), both of which can be fatal. Also, females who are pregnant and develop measles can experience premature birth and deliver low birth weight newborns. There have been reports of fatalities of the mother during the pregnancy.


Prior to the development of a vaccine, almost everyone born before 1957 experienced illness with the measles and if they survived, were conferred lifelong immunity. In the early 1960’s, a vaccine became available that proved to be over 97% effective in producing life-long immunity to the virus. Subsequently, the MMR vaccine became available, covering the mumps virus, rubella (German measles) virus and the rubeola measles virus. The MMR vaccine is recommended for children around 9 to 15 months of age and a second dose at 15 months to 6 years with at least 4 weeks between doses. If an unprotected individual is exposed to measles, the rubeola vaccine can be effective in preventing illness if administered within 4 days of exposure.


The MMR vaccine has been unequivocally proven to be safe after being evaluated in many clinical studies. However, vaccinations declined after a study was published in 1998 linking the vaccine to autism. This study was later found to be inaccurate and erroneous after being discredited by the many quality studies that failed to prove an association. In fact, investigations linked autism to having been ill with the measles. Despite this information, a significant number of parents refuse immunization for their children. These people have become known as “Anti-Vaxxers”.


The reason for publishing this article is because the number of measles cases reported thus far in 2019 is the most reported since 1994. Georgia is one of the 22 states reporting measles cases. A number of the increased outbreaks this year has been attributed to unprotected travelers who brought the measles back from countries such as Israel, Ukraine, and the Philippines, where large measles outbreaks are occurring. Travelers to these areas become infected and return to the USA and spread the disease to unvaccinated individuals.


These Anti-Vaxxers fail to realize that getting vaccinated is not only for self-protection but also is being socially responsible because it protects other people from the disease. This is known as “herd immunity”. In other words, herd immunity is a form of indirect protection from infectious disease that occurs when a large percentage of a population has become immune to an infection, thereby providing a measure of protection for individuals who are not immune.


The vaccine is so effective, that with world-wide compliance, the measles could be completely irradiated, just as occurred with use of the small pox vaccine.

If you are uncertain as to whether you have had the measles or the vaccine, your physician can obtain a simple blood test and determine your immune status.


Dr. Tippett is the founder of Comprehensive Quality Healthcare Providers, an internal medicine concierge practice, located at 1210 Commerce Dr. Suite 106, Greensboro, Ga. 30642. He can be reached at 706-510-3659. Visit his webpage at www.drtippett.com

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