The Scientific Activist

Measles: Not a Trivial Illness

The Lay Scientist has a new guest post up from British physician “DeeTee” about measles, a horrible disease that until recently had been virtually eradicated from the developed world. Unfortunately, despite the fact that measles is totally preventable with proper vaccination, the misguided campaigning of anti-vaccination fanatics has caused measles to once again raise its ugly head in our own backyard, as DeeTee explains:

But last year all that changed. Where I work we saw dozens of cases of measles over the summer. It was odd having to dredge my memory banks to remember details of this “lost” disease, but at least with measles once one has seen cases and one knows the symptoms and signs these are not easily forgotten.

And what are these tell tale signs? DeeTee describes some of the dramatic cases (s)he saw when training in Africa:

These were not simple, “uncomplicated” cases or even those with minor problems like otitis media, these all needed to be in hospital; Encephalitis, severe tracheo-bronchitis, pneumonia, and severe gastroenteritis were commonplace. Some kids got complications like cancrum oris, a nasty necrotising septic infection that ate away the face. Others were tipped into florid malnutrition (kwashiorkor or marasmus) by the assault of measles on the infant gut and the immune system, and many died despite all the medical help we could offer. Once or twice a week I had to break the news to a distraught mother that her child had died; something I never got used to doing, despite all the practice.

Check out the rest of the post; it’s well worth a read.