Contagious Diseases - Measles
( Originally Published 1936 )
Measles is one of the diseases which are called "neighborly diseases." For the reason that it appears in neighborhoods or in a single room in school.
Of all contagious diseases, it is probably the most contagious. It is almost certain that anyone who has never had measles and who is exposed to it will take it.
It is transmitted entirely by human contact—from one sick individual to another. Inasmuch as the most contagious time of the disease is in the early stage, when the patient is coughing and sneezing, and before the eruption or redness of the eyes have appeared, it is an extremely difficult disease to control.
Don't treat measles with contempt. You may treat it with a great many remedies, but contempt should not be one of them. In spite of the fact that nearly all people have it at one time or another in their lives, and that in most instances it runs a mild course, it can be very severe in its manifestations, and even fatal.
Therefore, children who have been exposed to a case of measles should be watched carefully until the incubation period of ten days is over, and at the first sign of fever, or redness of the eyes, or cough, they should be put to bed.
The most dangerous method of treating measles is to do what I mentioned above, treat it with contempt, and allow the child to exhaust itself by moving around. The great safeguard is rest in bed, a light diet, and isolation.
After the onset of fever, which is usually the first manifestation, the symptoms appear in the typical case in the following order:
Count them out on the fingers of your hand. On the little finger is fever. On the next finger, twelve hours later, comes the beginning, watering of the eyes. On the next finger, twelve hours later, there is marked redness and soreness of the eyes, with a runny nose, cough, bronchitis, and extreme discomfort (the symptoms grouped together called "catarrh"). On the forefinger, twelve hours later, appear little spots in the mouth called "Koplik's spots." On the thumb, thirty-six hours after this, the rash appears. At this time the temperature usually falls and the patient feels very much better generally.
There is no special treatment for measles. It probably runs its course more or less uninfluenced by treatment. The eyes and nose should be kept clean with saturated boric acid solution, the eyes should be protected from light, and the patient should be kept in bed on a very light diet.
After the subsidence of the eruption, the measles patient can be said to be non-contagious. In other words, the quarantine period of measles is very short, and the patient may be allowed to go out and mingle with other people with the full assurance that there is little or no danger of contagion. Nor are the objects which the patient has touched during the illness likely to be contagious if they are aired, sunned and washed. This is not the case with scarlet fever, which has a long quarantine period, and in which the objects which the patient touches are contagious for a long period.