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Can Measles be Prevented and Are There Treatment Options?

Measles Rubeola
Image source: CDC PHIL

The treatment of measles primarily involves alleviating symptoms with fluids and fever-reducers. Rest is recommended and use of a humidifier may be helpful to soothe a sore throat or cough. Complications such as encephalitis and pneumonia may occur and careful monitoring of symptoms is recommended.1 2

Many studies have also shown that immediate administration of high doses of vitamin A (50,000-200,000 IUs) can help control the severity of the disease, particularly in children who are malnourished.3 4 In the United States, vitamin A treatment is often recommended for children hospitalized for measles, those who are immunocompromised, and for individuals found to be vitamin A deficit.5, 6

According the CDC, measles immunoglobulin can be administered within six days of measles exposure to high risk populations which include pregnant women without adequate blood titers for the prevention of measles, infants younger than 1 year of age, and persons with severe immunosuppression. Measles immunoglobulin may reduce the risk of infection and complications of measles;7 however, its use has been linked to degenerative diseases of cartilage and bone, sebaceous skin diseases, immunoreactive diseases, and tumors.8

Antiviral agents such as ribavirin and interferon have also been used to treat measles in immunocompromised individuals, although there are outstanding questions about clinical efficacy.9 10

IMPORTANT NOTE: NVIC encourages you to become fully informed about Measles and the Measles vaccine by reading all sections in the Table of Contents , which contain many links and resources such as the manufacturer product information inserts, and to speak with one or more trusted health care professionals before making a vaccination decision for yourself or your child. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice.

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1 Higuera V Measles – How to treat measles Healthline May 8, 2019

2 CDC Measles (Rubeola) For Healthcare Professionals – Treatment May 8, 2018

3 Fawzi WW, Chalmers TC, Herrera MG et al. Vitamin A supplementation and child mortality. A meta-analysis. JAMA. 1993 Feb 17; 269(7):898-903.

4 Huiming Y, Chaomin W, Meng M. Vitamin A for treating measles in children. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2005 Oct 19;(4):CD001479.

5 CDC Measles (Rubeola) For Healthcare Professionals – Treatment May 8, 2018

6 Frieden TR, Sowell AL, Henning KJ, et al. Vitamin A Levels and Severity of Measles. Am J Dis Child. 1992; 146(2): 182-186

7 CDC Measles (Rubeola) For Healthcare Professionals – Immunoglobulin (IG) as post-exposure prophylaxis Feb. 5, 2018

8 Rønne T Measles virus infection without rash in childhood is related to disease in adult life. Lancet. 1985 Jan 5; 1(8419):1-5.

9 Sabella C. Measles: Not just a childhood rash Cleve Clin J Med 2010 Mar. 77(3):207-213

10 Forni AI, Schluger NW, Roberts RB. Severe Measles Pneumonitis in Adults: Evaluation of Clinical Characteristics and Therapy with Intravenous ribavirin. Clin Infect Dis 1994; 19:454-462

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