The Department of Public Health in Illinois confirmed that a person with measles is being treated in a hospital in the northern part of the state. There is no official information on the identity of the patient, but Nirav Shah, Director of the health department, said it was a visitor from another country. Shah said the patient is much better now, and he is not infectious anymore.

Measles is an airborne virus which makes it very infectious. 9 out of 10 people that are not immunized who share space with an infected person will be affected by the disease. Also, contact with fluids such as nasal fluids and saliva will get you sick too.

The figure shows the origin of reported measles cases in the United States during 2011. Image Credit: CDC
The figure shows the origin of reported measles cases in the United States during 2011. Image Credit: CDC

The symptoms are similar to that of a ´strong cold’. Therefore, runny nose, cough, fever and inflamed eyes are common. However, a person with measles will present a red rash after a 5 to 7 days. And this is when the virus is a problem because a host is only infectious 4 days before and after the rash appears. This makes an early detection of the disease very important to control a possible spread. Sometimes, an infected person will also start seeing little white spots inside his/her mouth after a couple of days. Those white spots are called Koplik’s spots.

Measles has been categorized as ‘endemic’

The scientists categorized it as an endemic virus. Which means it has been with humanity for a long time. It was first mentioned by the Persian physician Rhazes in his work ‘The Book of Smallpox and Measles’.

The book was published between the end of the 8th and the beginning of the 9th centuries. Measles is more dangerous when a group of people gets in contact with it for the first time, but human beings will eventually develop a natural resistance. However, the disease has been pointed out as the responsible of several deaths around the world. In the 50s, measles killed 20% of the Hawaii’s population and 2 thirds of Cuba’s native inhabitants.

The virus is held responsible for more than 200 million deaths between 1855 and 2005

In spite of its high rate of mortality, the virus is easily treated. In 1963, the first vaccine went public controlling the number of fatal cases. Nowadays, only 10% of the cases are fatal and most of them are from the developing world. Malnutrition renders a person susceptible to the worst aspect of the disease because in some cases. Weak patients end up having other complications, such as brain inflammation, pneumonia and bronchitis. But on the other hand, patients without previous nutrition deficiency have recovered after rest and simple treatment.

Even though is very contagious, the United States have been measles free since 2000, but foreign tourists will bring it back every now and then. The Illinois Department of Health is urging everyone who was at some specific places in the past few days, and has the symptoms to immediately get in touch with the authorities.

Source: NBC Chicago