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How to spot, treat and prevent measles

Toronto public health reported four cases of lab-confirmed measles in the city on Monday.

Two children under the age of two and two adults from different families have contracted the virus.

Here are some of the frequently asked questions when measles crop up:

What is measles?

Measles is a viral infection of the lungs and respiratory system.

How can you spot the virus?

People infected with measles can develop a red rash on their face that spreads across the body. Sufferers also display cold-like symptoms, such as a runny nose and cough, a high fever, sore eyes or sensitivity to light. A lab test is required to confirm if someone is infected.

File photo of a child with measles. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
File photo of a child with measles. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

How does measles spread?

Infected people can spread measles through coughing and sneezing, which sends droplets of the virus into the air. In some rare cases, particles from an infected person can linger in a room long after that person has left. It is one of the most contagious viruses. An infected person can be contagious for four days before and for four days after the rash appears.

How is measles treated?

Most people can recover from measles on their own with supportive care, like rest and fluids, at home. Severe infections may require hospital care, but patients should call ahead to doctor’s offices and hospitals before seeking treatment so as to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.

Can measles kill you?

The virus can cause other illnesses like ear infections, pneumonia and brain swelling, known as encephalitis, which can lead to death. Measles can also cause pregnant women to deliver prematurely or miscarry.

Who contracts measles?

Babies under one year of age are vulnerable as the measles vaccine is not administered until children are one or older.

People born before Jan. 1, 1970 have likely developed immunity to the virus.

Those born after that date can get a measles vaccine to protect themselves.

How can measles be prevented?

Getting vaccinated is the best way to prevent infection and reduce the severity if you do become infected.

Ninety-five per cent of people are immune after one dose of the vaccine. A second dose may be required for the five per cent who do not develop anti-bodies, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control.

The vaccine can prevent infection if it is administered within 72 hours of contact with an infected person. Immunoglobulin injection injections within six days of contact with an infected person can also help prevent infection. It is often given to potentially-high-risk patients like pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems.

Click here for more measles information from Toronto Public Health.