All you need to know about Measles, Mumps & Rubella:
These three illnesses are similar in nature and are generally vaccinated against together by administering the MMR vaccine. The MMR vaccine is safe, effective and offers complete protection against Measles, Mumps and Rubella. While these diseases are encountered worldwide, they are much more common in developing countries owing to lack of access to vaccines, and for this reason it is important to stay up to date on your vaccination records if travelling to foreign areas.
Measles is a disease caused by a virus which is spread through the air, and can be contracted from breathing, coughing or sneezing. It’s highly contagious and can remain on surfaces for up to 2 hours, so getting it is a common occurrence. The symptoms of measles are rash, high fever, runny nose, cough, red and watery eyes. Some people who get measles may get a secondary illness such as an ear infection, diarrhea, lung infection or even pneumonia. Although measles rarely is fatal, in certain severe instances it can cause swelling of the brain and even death. This disease is more sever in infants, the malnourished or those with weakened immune systems.
Mumps is a contagious disease spread similarly to measles, meaning through coughing, sneezing or talking. It can also live on surfaces for several hours, meaning is can be spread through cups, utensils or drink items. Symptoms of mumps include fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, loss of appetite, swollen and tender salivary glands on either a single or both sides of the face. Most cases of mumps are not serious, and people make a full recovery. However, occasionally mumps causes severe complications such as swelling of the brain, testicles, ovaries or breasts or even deafness. For this reason, prevention is important.
Rubella is sometimes called German measles, and is a variation of measles that causes rash, fever, sore throat, headache and red, itchy eyes. Often rubella causes no symptoms, and recedes within a few days. The most danger from Rubella is to pregnant women, as it may cause miscarriage or cause the baby to be born with serious birth defects.
These diseases have been mostly eliminated from developed countries due to the common practise of vaccination. You are at risk only if unvaccinated, or travelling to a developing country where vaccination against measles, mumps and rubella is not common. If travelling to a developing country, ensure that you have had the MMR vaccine or booster.
What can I do to Prevent Getting Measles, Mumps or Rubella?
The safest and most effective way to prevent any of these three disease is the MMR vaccine, which is routinely administered in Canada. Children should get 2 doses of the vaccine; at 12-15 months of age and then at 4-6 years of age. This vaccine is covered by OHIP. There is another variation of the MMR vaccine that also contains a vaccine for varicella (chickenpox) called the MMRV vaccine. Adults should get the vaccine if not previously vaccinated.
The vaccine should not be given to those with allergic reactions to MMR or MMRV, pregnant women, people with compromised immune systems or those who are sick at the time of the shot.
If travelling, avoid contact with sick people and take measures to maintain proper hygiene to avoid getting sick. Avoid travelling if unvaccinated.
Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (2017). MMR vaccine information. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/vaccines/mmr-vaccine.html
Government of Ontario (2017). MMR vaccine. Retrieved from: http://www.health.gov.on.ca/en/public/publications/immune/mmr.aspx
Health Link British Colombia (2017). Measles-Mumps-Rubella-vaccine. Retrieved from: https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/healthlinkbc-files/measles-mumps-rubella-vaccine