A deadly measles complication is more common than it was previously thought by the scientific community. Though measles is often seen as a two-weeks disease, it might have a long time deadly consequence, scientists say.

Most of the people who get measles, clean the virus out of the body. However, it doesn’t always go away. It was discovered that the virus can spread to the brain, and once there it slowly damages the organ and the nervous system, reappearing as what is known as subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE).

Baby, measles
An Australian nine-month-old baby boy who contracted measles in September 2016. Image credit: Thinkstock.

“When you get measles, the virus goes all over the body. A surprising amount goes to the central nervous system,” said Doctor James Cherry of the University of California, at the Infectious Disease Week meeting.

SSPE is a late complication of measles

Measles is a highly contagious respiratory infection that is caused by a virus. It is often called rubeola. It causes a skin rash all over the body and irritated eyes. At first, its symptoms are a hacking cough, runny nose, and high fever.

The kids also develop small red spots with white centers in their mouth. The rash usually starts in the forehead and then spreads to the rest of the body. Each year, it affects around 20 million people worldwide. It can be easily prevented with a vaccine.

Though measles can cause fatal consequences, including severe diarrhea, pneumonia, and blindness, it is not thought of as a risk disease. However, this could change with the new scientific outcomes. Scientists have proven that measles complications can kill people, years after they appear to be recovered.

SSPE is a late complication of measles. “People get measles, they get better and then many years later — on average, 10 years later — it starts,” said study co-author Dr. James Cherry.

The fatal and incurable complications have killed 17 adults and children in California between 1998 and 2015. All these cases included people who had had measles years before, and who had not been vaccinated against measles, mumps or rubella.

The SSPE didn’t show up right away. The average age of SSPE diagnosis was 12. The scientists say they don’t know what causes measles to reactivate in the brain.

Is it common to develop SSPE out of measles?

Previously, it was thought that SSPE affected around 1 out of 100.000 people. With the new study, it is believed that one in 1400 kids who get measles might eventually develop SSPE, especially if they get infected under the age of 5. As well, one in 600 babies who get measles within the first year of life, are likely to develop this dangerous disease too.

There is no cure for SSPE. There are some antiviral drugs which help to slow it down, but generally, people get to live only two years after they are diagnosed.

“Given how highly contagious measles is and given how common side effects are, this is a mandate to get vaccinated and stop fooling around with fears of things like autism from the vaccine.” Said Cherry.

Source: Post star