Measles: The killer disease affecting kids

Measles: The killer disease affecting kids

The complications that children can suffer after suffering from measles can lead to death. Here is what you need to know about the disease from an expert. 

Measles/ iStock

There has been an outbreak of measles in South Africa, mostly affecting kids in schools. 

The outbreak began last year in Limpopo and continues to rise after more cases were reported in different provinces. 

In June, the health department announced that there was an outbreak in Tshwane. 

READ: Health Dept confirms measles outbreak in Tshwane

Unfortunately, measles is a highly contagious, infectious disease. 

According to the World Health Organisation, unvaccinated young children are at highest risk of measles and its complications. 

Dr L warns that parents need to pay attention and know the symptoms of measles, because it is a deadly disease. 

"It is a killer. Measles kills kids," Dr L said in an interview with Martin Bester. 

CDC also reports that worldwide, 36 cases of measles per 1 million persons are reported each year and about 134,200 die.

Dr L says that "it usually starts ten to twelve days after being exposed to other children or people with measles". 

It then lasts for seven to ten days. 


"It starts off with fever, cough, runny nose, very inflamed eyes, and then a rash. The eyes of the patient are normally bloodshot," says Dr L. 

He warns that measles can cause immunosuppression and patients can suffer from other illnesses. Others might even complain of feeling body aches.

READ: Measles cases still on the rise in SA

Complications and death

Measles can cause very serious complications, even resulting in death. 

"Most measles-related deaths are caused by complications associated with the disease," states WHO.

The organisation says more serious complications are common in children under the age of five or adults over the age of 30.

These complications include: 'blindness, encephalitis (an infection that causes brain swelling), severe diarrhoea and related dehydration, ear infections, or severe respiratory infections such as pneumonia.' 


One of the best ways to prevent measles is through vaccination. 

According to KZN Health, measles vaccinations are included in the South African Expanded Programme on Immunizations (EPI) schedule and the vaccine is given at 9 months and repeated at 18 months of age. 

"The vaccinations are absolutely essential," says Dr L.

He says children need to take another vaccination when they are "around about six or seven years old" to make it effective,  because if one has no vaccine at that age, getting it is worse and that is the problem. School going kids give it to each other by being close to each other in classes and playing together.


Measles is caused by a virus and there is no specific treatment for it. Patients will receive medication to treat the symptoms.

READ: Unknown vaccination status of many diagnosed with measles a concern - Phaahla

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Image courtesy of iStock/ @Bilanol

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