Measles, mumps, and rubella

Measles, mumps, and rubella: three diseases that can be prevented in young children by a single vaccine.

What are these diseases (measles, mumps, and rubella)?

Measles, mumps, and rubella are contagious infections caused by viruses. They are transmitted by air-born droplets carried in the cough or sneeze of an infected person. Owing to vaccination, these diseases are now less frequent than they once were. However, outbreaks occasionally occur.

Measles are highly contagious and usually appear between 7 and 14 days after they have been contracted. The infected person starts to be contagious about 4 days before the skin rash typical of measles appears, until about 4 days after.

Rubella can appear 2 to 3 weeks after having been contracted. The infected person starts to be contagious about a week before the skin rash typical of rubella appears, until about a week later.

As for mumps, about 16 to 18 days can pass before symptoms are manifested. The communicability period starts about 6 days before symptoms appear and ends about 6 days after they appear.

What are the signs and symptoms?

Initial symptoms of the measles are as follows: 

  • high fever
  • runny nose
  • coughing

Then, a red blotchy rash appears on the body, including on the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet. Additionally, the infected individual may feel pain in the eyes and be indisposed by light. The disease lasts about a week or two.

Rubella is usually harmless in children, but it can be more serious in adolescents and adults. Some individuals have no symptoms. The disease lasts about three days and manifests itself by the following signs and symptoms:

  • fever
  • pain and muscle soreness
  • nausea
  • red blotches on the face and body, and
  • swelling and soreness of the glands in the neck

As for mumps, the main symptoms is painful swelling of the cheeks and neck. Other symptoms may also occur:

  • fever
  • headaches
  • fatigue
  • muscle soreness
  • loss of appetite

Measles are very contagious and can be serious. Therefore, it is important to see a doctor promptly. If you think your child or someone close to you suffers from the measles, mumps or rubella, a doctor should be consulted as soon as possible.

What are the complications?

These three infections can sometimes cause serious complications. For example, the measles can be accompanied by a pulmonary infection; rubella by brain inflammation (encephalitis), and the mumps by hearing loss.

Particular attention should be paid to pregnant women. In fact, measles, mumps, and rubella can lead to complications for unborn babies. Fortunately, immunization before pregnancy helps to prevent complications.

A pregnant woman who is not immunized against these diseases must avoid all contact with an infected individual. If she comes into contact with an infected individual, she must consult a doctor as soon as possible.

What are the available treatments?

There is no treatment against measles aside from easing symptoms. Occasionally, antibiotics can be prescribed to treat the complications related to measles. Vitamin A supplements are sometimes prescribed.

The same is true for rubella and mumps: the diseases cannot be treated, but symptoms can be relieved. For information about measles, mumps, and rubella, speak to a doctor or pharmacist.

What are the prevention methods?

Fortunately, it is possible to prevent the three disease, using a single vaccine commonly called MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella). This vaccine is part of Quebec's systematic immunization schedule. It is usually administered in two doses at the age of 12 and 18 months.

If you haven't been immunized against measles, mumps, and rubella, avoid all contact with an individual infected by one of these diseases. You should also consider being vaccinated.

Young children often fall victim to a slew of children's diseases: varicella, whooping cough, measles, rubella, mumps, etc. You can act quickly and avoid a lot of headaches when you know how to recognize the signs and symptoms.

Speak to your pharmacist for additional information about measles, mumps, and rubella.

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Measles, mumps, and rubella

Three different diseases; a single vaccine of critical importance!
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