In the past few years, the number of measles cases have been low. However, there were more than 600 confirmed cases of measles in the country in 2014 and that has been the highest count since 1994. Unfortunately, 2015 is getting off to a very strong start with at least 169 cases across 20 states. The CDC advises, first and foremost, for us to identify right away whether our children are already infected. This then will help in controlling the spread. How then do you identify measles?
Measles is a highly infectious illness caused by the rubeola virus. It is an endemic disease; meaning it is continually present in a community. If measles enters an area where the people have never been exposed, the spread may be too hard to control. A person can be infected with measles by physical contact with an infected person or just being nearby infected people. You can also be infected if you touch a surface that has infected droplets of mucus and subsequently put your fingers into your mouth, rub your nose, or eyes.
During the first week after being exposed, there may be no obvious signs of illness actually. However, the virus has already entered your body and your immune system is already starting to fight off the infection too.
The first symptoms that appear include colds, cough, and red eyes. High fever, of 39C or 100F is almost always present. These symptoms worsen in 4 days. You will most likely then see white spots in the mouth which are like mouth sores or canker sores. These are called Koplik spots which, when seen, makes you sure that your child is infected with measles.
After the initial exposure of two weeks, the rash may appear, which starts as small spots that will eventually blend together. The rash begins around the ears and on the forehead and will spread to the face, neck, trunk, arms, buttocks, and legs. The fever is still present when the rash first appears. At the same time, the Koplik spots disappear, and the fever begins to fall. The rash disappears over another three or four days in the same order in which it started.
For you not to confuse measles with other infectious illnesses, the diagnosis can simply be based on the presence of the Koplik spots, along with the presence of the fever with the three C’s: cough, conjunctivitis, and coryza (runny nose), and the typical progression of the rash. If you are still not sure though, seek consult with a pediatrician who may be able to identify measles and confirm the diagnosis using a simple blood test.