5 Interesting Facts About Measles
1. Measles has been around for a long time.
In the 9th century, a Persian doctor published one of the first written accounts of measles. Later, in 1757, a Scottish physician named Francis Home demonstrated that an infectious agent in the blood of patients causes measles1.
2. Measles can cause serious complications.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 1 in 5 people in the United States who get measles will be hospitalized. 1 out of every 1,000 people with measles will develop brain swelling that can lead to brain damage, and 1 to 3 out of 1,000 people with measles will die despite medical care1.
3. Measles is VERY contagious.
Measles is transmitted when an infected person coughs or sneezes. In fact, up to 9 out of 10 people around an infected person will become infected if they are not protected. An infected person can even spread measles to others without knowing if she or he has the disease. Measles can even be spread from four days before developing the measles rash through four days afterward. Interestingly, the measles virus can remain infectious in the air for up to two hours after an infected person leaves the area1.
4. Measles is on the rise.
So far in the United States in 2019, there have been 1,215 cases, which is the largest number of cases reported since 1992 and since measles was declared eliminated in 2000. In any given year, outbreaks can occur due to an increase in the number of travelers who get measles abroad and bring it to the United States or due to unvaccinated people affecting their communities1.
5. Measles can lead to blindness.
Blindness due to measles is the single leading cause of blindness in low-income countries accounting for an estimated 15,000 to 60,000 cases of blindness per year2. This is due to vitamin A deficiency, which contributes to a delayed recovery and a high rate of complications. Severe measles cases among children should be treated with vitamin A that is administered immediately upon diagnosis and repeated the next day1.