Measles outbreak in Mumbai: warning signs, treatment, complications in children | Health

Amid the measles outbreak in Mumbai, a one-year-old boy lost his life on Monday due to complications from the disease. So far, seven deaths have been suspected due to the virus infection and 164 measles cases have been reported in the city according to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). Measles is a highly contagious viral infection and is associated with high mortality in children under 2 years old. There is no specific cure for measles and parents are advised to have their children aged 9 to 16 vaccinated against the disease. Symptoms of measles are fever, rash, cough, runny nose and red eyes. However, complications of the disease in partially vaccinated or unvaccinated people can be serious and fatal. (Also read: Measles outbreaks in Govandi slums since January due to poor vaccination coverage)

What is measles

“Measles is a highly contagious viral infection that is characterized by fever, a typical rash (maculopapular) and the 3 C’s – cough, coryza (runny nose) and conjunctivitis (red eyes). Since the disease is highly contagious – meaning anyone who is unimmunized and exposed will contract the disease – it is important that all children are vaccinated against it Mortality is highest in children under 2 years of age, children with malnutrition and non-immune adults,” says Dr. Amin Kaba, Consultant Pediatrician & Neonatologist, Masina Hospital.

Measles symptoms

Dr. Sanjeev Dutta, HOD and Sr Consultant Pediatrics, Marengo QRG Hospital, Faridabad says the disease starts with a very high fever followed a few days later by tiny red rashes on the face and behind the ears which then spread all over the body ; the eyes and mouth cavity also turn red.


“Treatment consists of ensuring good hydration with oral rehydration solution and other fluids and paracetamol to control fever. Measles can be complicated by pneumonia and otitis which may require appropriate treatment and even hospitalization” , says Dr. Dutta.

Fatal complications of measles

Unvaccinated and malnourished children are at high risk of developing life-threatening illnesses from measles that could lead to death or disability.

“The child infected with measles has suppressed immunity and therefore may end up with complications such as blindness, pneumonia, diarrhea and even death. A devastating late-onset complication is SSPE (sclerosing panencephalitis subacute) that leaves the child with irreversible brain damage. All children diagnosed with measles are given mega-doses of vitamin A to prevent complications,” says Dr Kaba.

How to prevent measles

The disease is easily preventable by getting vaccinated against it. The Indian government recommends 2 doses of measles vaccine at 9 months and 16 months. The IAP recommends an additional booster at age 5.

Why measles is increasing in India, measles vaccination

“India has the dubious distinction of having the highest number of measles cases in the world. To counter this, there was a national measles elimination campaign in 2017-2018 during which all children school children were vaccinated with an additional dose of measles vaccine containing the MR vaccine. India even managed to achieve the target in most states. However, with the onset of the Covid pandemic, the pool of unvaccinated children exploded and as soon as a few cases appeared, the infection spread rapidly. The government prepared to immunize these unvaccinated children quickly over the following month and bring the outbreak under control. There is already a surveillance system in which all children presenting with fever and rash must be reported to the health authorities by the attending physician. These cases are checked for the virus as well as measles antibodies and a watch is kept for any sudden increase in the number of cases in a particular area,” says Dr Kaba.

“The only way to prevent measles is to get vaccinated. Some adults may not have been vaccinated. They can get tested for antibody levels and take the vaccine if indicated. Another important preventative measure is to maintain good nutrition in the child and avoid contact with sick children. Basically, all the measures that we practiced for Covid 19”, adds Dr Kaba.

“A highly effective measles, mumps and rubella (MMR or MR) vaccine is available to prevent this dreaded infection. The vaccine is given as part of the national immunization program at 9 months of age and 16 to 18 months There has also been an additional sweeping series of RR vaccination at school to increase vaccination coverage In addition, an ongoing measles and rubella surveillance program is needed to identify the measles outbreak in society,” says Dr. Dutta.

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About Antoine L. Cassell

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