Measles symptoms: rash, what is measles, symptoms in adults, UK outbreak explained - as cases soar

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Adults can also be affected by the viral infection

The UK is on a “trajectory for everything getting much worse” when it comes to measles spreading, the head of the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has warned.

Professor Dame Jenny Harries told the PA News agency that “concerted action” is needed to tackle the virus as she visited a measles blackspot in the West Midlands; figures showed there have been 216 confirmed measles cases and 103 probable cases in the West Midlands since 1 October last year.

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Measles is a highly contagious viral infection commonly associated with childhood, but adults are not immune to its effects. The measles virus primarily spreads through respiratory droplets and can lead to a range of symptoms in both children and adults.

While most individuals recover fully, measles can have serious consequences, and understanding its symptoms and potential complications is crucial for timely diagnosis and appropriate medical intervention.

Here is everything you need to know about it.

What are the symptoms for measles?

Measles typically begins with a prodromal phase, characterised by fever, malaise, and the classic "three Cs" – cough, coryza (runny nose) and conjunctivitis (red eyes).

High fever can persist for several days and contribute to the overall feeling of illness, and adults with measles may experience a persistent cough, nasal congestion and a sore throat, making breathing uncomfortable.

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Red, watery eyes, and sensitivity to light are other common symptoms, contributing to the characteristic appearance of measles.

As the infection progresses, a distinctive rash emerges, often starting on the face and then spreading downward to the rest of the body. In adults, the symptoms may be more severe compared to children, with higher fever and increased discomfort.

The measles rash typically begins as flat, red spots that gradually become raised and form a blotchy, reddish-brown rash. It often starts on the face and then spreads down the body, lasting several days.

What effects can measles have?

While most adults recover from measles without lasting effects, complications can arise, particularly in individuals with weakened immune systems or pre-existing health conditions.

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Measles can lead to secondary bacterial infections, particularly pneumonia, which is a leading cause of measles-related deaths. Pneumonia can cause severe respiratory distress and requires prompt medical attention.

Measles encephalitis, inflammation of the brain, is a rare but serious complication that can occur after the acute phase of the illness. It may lead to seizures, confusion, and in severe cases, permanent neurological damage.

Measles can result in ear infections, causing pain and potential hearing loss if not promptly treated. Measles can temporarily weaken the immune system, making individuals more susceptible to other infections during and after the illness.

Pregnant women who contract measles are at an increased risk of complications, including preterm birth and low birth weight.

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Beyond immediate health consequences, measles can have broader effects on individuals and communities. Outbreaks can strain healthcare systems, and the economic impact of widespread illness can be substantial.

Vaccination remains the most effective preventive measure, not only protecting individuals but also contributing to herd immunity and reducing the overall burden of the disease.

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