It seems such a long time ago that Dr Wakefield and his colleagues published an article that would have an incendiary effect and inform a generation’s decision about measles immunisation. They linked the MMR, Measles, Mumps and Rubella vaccination with autism. Lets face it back in 1989 when Riverside Childcare was established peoples knowledge of autism was woolly at best and in most cases aside from parents with autistic children, knowledge on the street was mostly anecdotal So when the link was made the public went into panic mode. A panic which takes us to today where in the UK and principally in Wales the figure has topped 1000 cases including the death of a 25 year old.
Back in 1989 the pressure on parents to decline the injection was palpable and most potent amongst the chattering classes and what I would class the 2.45pm school gate crowd. The ‘anti’ brigade made parents who did allow their children to have the vaccination seem almost like villans blithely putting their children in harms way.
We know now that the initial work presented by Dr Wakefield, who has since been struck off and no longer works in the UK, has now been entirely discredited and that the current view is that there is no link between the MMR vaccination and Autism.
Oh were it as simple as turn back the clock but no, now we found ourselves in the territory of debating about separate vaccines, this is despite the large research study into the safety of giving MMR which was based on the triple vaccine. Less was know about the risks of giving the injections separately. This would mean giving six injections, increasing the amount of work and inconvenience for parents and those administrating the vaccine aside from testing a generation for needle phobia! The Department of Health, wisely in our opinion, stood firm and tried to educate parents about the benefits of MMR and correct the misunderstandings and address the fears. However due to the number of children who were not vaccinated the genie was out of the bottle and the risk of an outbreak increased which is where we find ourselves today.
So what is Measles?
A highly infectious viral illness. It can be very unpleasant and possibly lead to serious complications, including in rare cases blindness and even death.
How does it spread?
Easily. Measles can be caught by breathing in droplets which carry the measles virus or by touching a surface that has been contaminated ( it can last on surfaces for a number of hours) the risk is if one after touching a surface then places ones hands near ones nose or mouth.
How long does it last in its infectious stage?
Two to four days before the rash appears and for about five days after it appears.
Who can catch it?
Anyone who has not had measles before and hasn’t been vaccinated can be infected. It is possible in very rare cases to develop measles even after vaccination (However, less than 1% of children remain at risk after having it after having both does of the vaccine). Cases of re-infection after you have had the virus are extremely rare because the body builds up immunity (resistance) to the virus.
Symptoms of measles:
Red eyes and sensitivity to light
Greyish white spots in the mouth and throat
After a few days a red-brown spotty rash will appear. It usually starts behind the ears, then spreads around the head and neck before spreading to the legs and the rest of the body.
Measles can be extremely unpleasant and can lead to complications such as meningitis and pneumonia which in rare cases can lead to death.
Who is at risk of complications
Children with a weakened immune system
Children with a poor diet
Children under the age of five
More common complication our diarrhoea, conjunctivitis, vomiting, inflation of the larynx, ear infections and febrile convulsions.
Less common serous complications
Meningitis –a very high fever with cold hands and feet, agitated but not want to be touched, they may cry continuously, become very sleepy difficult to wake, they may appear confused and unresponsive. They may but not always develop a blotchy red rash that looks like a bruise but does not fade when you roll a glass over it.
Pneumonia (lung infection), signs of which are fast, difficult breathing, chest pain and deteriorating condition
Liver infection- signs of being unwell may become jaundice ( yellow skin)
Encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), which can be fatal, so watch for drowsiness, headache and vomiting
Low platelet count, known which affects the blood’s ability to clot
What should I do if my child has symptoms of measles?
Contact your GP straight away
What is the treatment?
There is no specific treatment for measles. Once the rash starts, you will need to rest and treat the symptoms until your immune system fights off the virus. If there are no complications due to measles, the symptoms will usually disappear within 7-10 days. Antibiotics will not help with the measles but may be used to treat complications.
How should I manage caring for a child with measles?
Darkened room can help reduce light sensitivity.
Cough medicines are of little help and should not be given to children under the age of six.
Placing a bowl of water in the room near a radiator /heather will make the atmosphere more humid, which can help to relieve a cough.
Small children with a high temperature rapidly lose water and can get dehydrated, s give lots of drinks.
Children with measles must be kept away from other children for at least five days after the rash has appeared. If you have a child or baby who has not been fully vaccinated see your GP.
Additional information can be found at NHS Choices –
With thanks to Jill Wheatcroft our Director of Training who is a Lecturer in Child Health
Jill is currently offering lunchtime and early morning lunch and learn sessions on this topic and others of interest to childcarers and parents. Contact Riverside Childcare for more information or to arrange a session for your own group/office at firstname.lastname@example.org