Also known as rubeola or sometimes morbilli, measles is a highly infectious disease that is caused by a paramyxovirus of the genus Morbillivirus. The viral infection affects the respiratory system, integumentary system, and the immune system. In general, measles is considered to be one of the most common infections in children aged 3 to 5 years old. Alarming, measles is known to be a killer viral disease; in 2014 alone, it resulted in an average of 300 deaths every day.
While we’ve been familiar about vaccines being injected, scientists are currently looking for novel ways to ease the administration process. To date, the development of painless vaccines for a wide array of diseases, including measles, is considered to be one of the most recent discoveries in the field of immunology. Below is a short overview of the childhood disease as well as the latest update on this vaccination process.
Diagnosis and Symptoms
As alluded to earlier, measles is highly contagious, infecting 90% of people who are not immune to it. It is even said that sharing living or any space with an infected person can get you infected as well, thus making children highly vulnerable to it.
- The symptoms of measles usually develop one to two weeks after exposure to the virus. Usually, the initial symptoms include fever, muscle pain, redness of eyes, malaise, Koplik spots (spots in the mouth that appear before the actual rash), rash, cough, and runny nose.
Treatment and Prevention
To date, there is still no prescription drug to treat measles. Normally, the virus itself and the symptoms associated with it will disappear within three weeks (or less). Nonetheless, physicians may prescribe medication to treat fever and muscle pains.
- Measles was once considered to be unavoidable and generally, all children contracted measles. This is no longer true since measles vaccine has become available in the 1960s. The development of vaccination, as well as the efforts to increase its coverage, has led to the significant decrease in the number of deaths from the disease. Worldwide, deaths from measles decreased from more than 870,000 deaths in 1999 to just about 56,000 in 2014.
- Interestingly, scientists at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) in Atlanta, Georgia are now working on novel ways to easily administer the vaccine for measles. Basically, the vaccine will work like a skin patch–the patch contains about 100 microneedles that are made up of dry measles vaccine, a polymer, sugar, and other components.
- The researchers are very excited about this new technology. Aside from being highly stable (it can be stored for several months at room temperature), no special skills are required to give the vaccine. Because of its size, the vaccine will now be easier to transport even in remote areas and generally little to no toxic waste is produced.
- Last but definitely not the least, the vaccine is painless–it could make it easier to administer the vaccine to children and infants who are too young to get one yet, and of course, to adults who are still undecided about getting vaccinated.