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Measure, because you have to be careful


mom with baby girl with measles



According to a report by the European Center for Diseases Control, among the countries of the European Union, Italy is the one where measles hit the most in 2013: why? What consequences can it have in an adult person? We talked about it with dr. Matteo Moro, responsible for Risk Management and with dr. Luca Speroni, dermatologist of Humanitas.




Dr. Moro, what is due to this wide spread of measles in Italy?


“This is not news: the figure is in line with those of previous years. Measles is an exanthematous disease (which causes rashes) rather typical of childhood, whose high contagiousness is due to the mode of transmission, which occurs by respiratory airway, without the need for exchange of fluids.


In fact, in the past, before the measles vaccine was widespread, it was difficult to find adults who were not immunized because almost everyone was infected during childhood, with consequences that, at least in developed countries, are often mild. Currently, however, due to the fact that in the early years in which the measles vaccine was widespread (1990-2000) this was not practiced to the whole population, we have a part of young adults and adults who are not immunized or vaccine or antibodies derived from the normal course of the disease and are infected in an age group that goes mainly between 15 and 30 years.


The problem is that, in adults, measles are manifested more strongly and, compared to the same pathology taken in childhood, can lead to a greater number of serious complications such as encephalitis, morbid pneumonia or other opportunistic pulmonary complications . Especially for those already weakened by other factors, measles can be very dangerous: for this reason, those who have frequent contact with people at risk of complications in case of contagion (for example, those who work in hospital or in residences for the elderly) should be very careful”.




Dr. Speroni, what are the symptoms of measles and how should those who have suspicions of being infected behave?


“Measles gives rise to three different phases. The first one, which lasts 10-12 days, is the incubation phase, which can be practically asymptomatic; small signs of discomfort may occur, such as loss of appetite, headache and diarrhea, which are difficult to identify as specific to measles. Immediately thereafter the prodromal phase of 3-5 days, characterized by conjunctivitis, phlegm (cold and / or cough) and fever, as well as by Köplik spots, small whitish cluster lesions located on the mucosa of the mouth at the height of molars. Finally, there is the actual exanthematic phase (5-7 days) during which, starting from the face and the head, the patient covers dark red spots, typical of measles, which can also spread to the whole body surface.


Note that there is no specific drug to treat measles, so each treatment has the purpose of relieving the symptoms: in fact, it is recommended to use paracetamol to prevent the body temperature from rising too much, and the intake of many liquids to maintain hydration. What increases the spread of measles is the fact that unfortunately who gets sick can transmit measles even in the prodromal phase and since the last days of the incubation phase, during which to distinguish the symptoms from those of other diseases (such as a common influence) is rather difficult.


Furthermore, in adults, measles do not always manifest themselves in a typical form, so the symptoms themselves may vary in intensity or, in some cases, do not show up completely. For this reason, I recommend to those who suspect that they have been infected, especially if they do a job in which they have contact with the public, to speak with their managers and with the general practitioner and get into sickness as soon as possible, both to avoid the contagion of others to minimize the risks of developing complications. Finally, I would recommend to the adults affected by the measles to keep under control the small disturbances that may occur even after complete recovery, as complications can occur even after one / two weeks from the end of the exanthematic phase ».