GP’s notes

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You may have seen on the TV or read in the papers that there has been an increase in the number of measles cases in the North-East over the past few months.

Measles is a viral illness that most commonly affects young children who have not had their childhood immunisations but adults are also at risk of catching measles and those currently affected by this outbreak seem to be mainly aged between 10 to 30 years.

Symptoms usually start about 7-18 days after the individual has been exposed to the infection (it is spread in the droplets of saliva when an infected person coughs or sneezes or by direct contact with an infected individual).

The first sign of infection is usually a temperature that may last for a couple of days before a cough starts with a runny nose and sore red eyes.

A few days later the classical red-brown spotty rash appears. This usually starts on the face and then spreads down the body and onto the arms and legs the rash starts to fade after about 5 days.

Small white spots can also be seen in the early stages of infection in the mouth. People who are infected by measles generally feel unwell for several days.

Measles is miserable for the individual infected and can be passed easily between people. In rare cases people can develop complications that may include, brain inflammation (encephalitis), pneumonia and inflammation of the liver and in young children a febrile fit. Whilst these complications are rare they can be serious.

There are no specific treatments for measles infection itself. If you think you may have caught measles you should treat the symptoms.

Drink lots of fluids and take simple painkillers.

Because measles is very infectious it is not recommended that you go to your GP or a walk in centre unannounced.

You should phone the doctors initially and they will give advice on what to do.

Contact should be made with a health care professional if the patient feels drows,y is dehydrated (more common in children who will have a dry mouth and be passing less urine), has breathing difficulties or takes a fit.

Try to avoid contact with other people, especially pregnant women children under 12 months old and anyone who has a weak immune system. Children with measles do not go to school and adults do not go to work from 4 days when the rash first appears. You should also inform the school or work of your illness.

You can prevent measles infection by having the Measles vaccine. This is highly effective in giving protection against the illness. This is offered as a standard childhood immunisation but if you are not sure if you or your child has been immunised it is worthwhile checking with your GP or Health visitor.

As always if you have any concerns about your own health or that of a family member you should speak to your GP surgery or call 111 for advice.