Measles Vaccine May Prevent Complications Not Usually Linked To Ailment: Study

A new case study suggests that the measles vaccine may have additional benefits for some users, helping prevent other serious and sometimes fatal complications, which are not usually associated with the disease.

Researchers from Malta published findings this week in the medical journal BMJ Case Reports, which looked at measles complications arising in three different cases, which led to hospitalization and could have been life threatening. The researchers are holding up the cases as examples of why vaccines are so important.

Many people think getting the measles means simply dealing with a rash. But the disease is linked to many serious complications in every organ of the body. Almost one-third of all reported cases of measles have potentially serious complications, such as pneumonia, hepatitis, and viral meningitis.

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In the case study, doctors looked at incidents involving three patients with complications from measles. All three patients were admitted to a hospital in Malta in 2019. One patient contracted the measles after receiving only one of the two doses of the vaccine, and later contracted hepatitis as a complication from measles.

The two other patients also experienced complications including appendicitis and viral meningitis, with both having no reported history of measles vaccinations.

Measles is a highly contagious viral respiratory infection. Common symptoms include fever, cough, and rash. However, because the infection suppresses the body’s immune system it can also lead to other complications.

Complications caused by the measles virus include multi-organ involvement; pneumonia; hepatitis; viral meningitis; seizures; encephalomyelitis, an inflammation of the brain and spinal cord that leads to neurological problems; and subacute sclerosing panecephalitis, a neurological disorder that leads to permanent nervous system damage and can result in a vegetative state.

The complications can lead to high dependency care and may even be fatal in some cases. Complications often occur in people under the age of 5 years old or above the age of 20.

Measles is highly preventable with the two-dose vaccine. However, both doses of the vaccine are necessary for it to be effective. Taking the measles vaccine correctly not only prevents the disease but can also help prevent the serious complications that can be a byproduct of the disease, the researchers noted.

Measles were once thought to be disappearing due to widespread and effective vaccination. In recent years, health officials have indicated there has been an exponential increase in the incidence of measles.

More than 140,000 people around the world died from the measles last year, according to the World Health Organization. In the past year nearly 1,300 cases of measles were reported in the U.S.; the most cases reported since 1992.

Cases among both adolescents and adults are increasing, which many experts link to an anti-vaccination campaign which focused on unfounded claims of side effects linked to measles. The “anti-vaxxer” movement has led many parents to refuse vaccinations for their children, further leading to a reduction in herd immunity.

The FDA issued a statement last year emphasizing the safety and effectiveness of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccination. The agency’s statement emphasized the safety of the vaccine, as well as its effectiveness to prevent the infection and spread of measles.

The researchers in the latest study urged implementation of vaccine education and compliance with the two-dose measles vaccine worldwide to help prevent resurgence of the disease and complications linked to the infection.


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