November 23, 2012 10:52 am
“Ooh, that light is too bright! What are these red dots all over my skin?”
A kid wakes up one morning with the measles. It started out like a cold, with sneezing and a runny nose. Then along came a fever. Finally red dots spread from head to toe. The rash of red dots is the most familiar sign of measles. Measles can also make eyes sensitive to light.
Almost all kids used to get measles. Then doctors invented a measles vaccine. Now a couple of shots is all it takes to prevent measles. In the year 2000, only about 100 kids in the United States caught the disease.
You can catch measles from someone who has the disease. A kind of germ called a virus causes measles. Coughing and sneezing spreads the virus from one person to another.
You probably will not catch measles if you have already had measles before. Your body learns to fight off the measles virus once the virus has attacked. You also probably will not catch measles if you have had a measles vaccination.
If you do catch measles, there is not much you can do. Kids who catch measles have to stay in bed. They have to stay away from other people so that they do not spread the germs. They can put lotion on their rash, but doctors still have no way to kill the measles virus. Drugs called antibiotics don’t work on viruses.
People with measles usually get better in about two weeks. Sometimes measles can make a body very weak. Other germs can attack. These germs can cause lung and ear infections.
Sometimes measles harms the brain. The virus can get into the brain and cause a disease called encephalitis. People can die from encephalitis, but this does not happen very often.
Measles and German measles are two different diseases. They are caused by different viruses. German measles has some of the same signs as measles. But German measles does not make people as sick or last as long. German measles usually attacks older kids and young adults.
You probably were vaccinated against German measles. There has been a German measles vaccine since the 1970s. Now, only a few hundred people a year in the United States get German measles.
Measles is now rare in Canada, the United States, and most European countries. Kids in Africa, Asia, and other parts of the world still catch measles. Poor countries cannot afford to vaccinate all the children. The World Health Organization (WHO) says that about 1 million children in poor countries die from measles each year. Scientists are working on cheaper vaccines.

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