Measles Mass Campaign: Frequently Asked Questions
19 September 2017
Why is measles a serious disease?
Measles is a viral infection, spread from person to person through saliva by coughing, sneezing or being in close contact with an infected person. Symptoms include fever, a rash and a flu-like illness. Complications can include lung infection (pneumonia), diarrhoea, dehydration, blindness, brain infection (encephalitis) or death. Most people recover fully from measles, but complications are unpredictable.
How do mass campaigns work to prevent measles?
Vaccines work in two ways. The first way is that they protect the vaccinated person from developing severe measles disease. Immunization allows the immune system to “see” the weakened measles virus contained in the vaccine, so that the immune system can protect the person the next time they come into contact with the virus.
The second way vaccines work is to prevent the virus spreading to others in the community. For example, if a parent chooses not to vaccinate their child, their child may recover fully from measles. Their child may however spread the virus to a 3 month old baby, who is too young to be vaccinated. The baby may develop complications.
In order to prevent measles spreading, at least 95% (95 of every 100 people) in the community need to be immune. The World Health Organisation recommends periodic mass vaccination campaigns, even in the absence of measles outbreaks, in order to ensure that more than 95% of the community is immune to measles.
Should adults be concerned about measles?
Anyone of any age can catch measles, but complications are more common in children under 1 year of age. Measles vaccine can be given at any age older than 6 months, and there is no harm to additional doses. Missing doses can therefore be caught up at any age. Adults are not part of the target age range for this vaccination campaign, however, and will not be eligible for free vaccine.
If an adult is exposed to a patient with wild type measles, they should see their health provider and receive a measles vaccine booster. It is not necessary for adults to test their immunity status to measles.
Communicated by: National Institute of Communicable Diseases
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