In the 1800's the measles was a very dangerous disease, and when people who come in contact with it will die, if they have never been exposed to the virus before. The measles is transmitted through the air. The way that the virus is transmitted is that infected droplets are released by coughing, sneezing, and by talking. When the infected droplets that contain the measles are in the air, they are taken into the body through the mouth, nose and eyes of the potential person that could get the virus. People with low respiratory tract, which is the lungs and bronchi, are more likely to get the infection. During the next two to four days after the infection penetrates the body, the measles virus replicates in the respiratory cells and then spreads to the draining lymph nodes, where it reproduces again. Then it moves into the blood stream, carried by the white blood cells. This results in the virus being carried all over the body, which leads to infecting other places inside the body. During this time, the infected person feels fine and the measles infection and incubation stages are very unnoticeable. The next stage of the measles happens after eight to twelve days. The infected person has symptoms of fever, weakness and loss of appetite. Coughing and running of the eyes and nose are also seen. Now the infection is spreading all over the tissues through out the body. They also trigger the body's immune system, which causes the symptoms. When the measles virus infects the immune system and interacts with the antibodies and T cells, a measles rash begins on the face and very quickly spreads to the body, arms and legs. The fever and cough become more intense after the fifth day. The rash turns into 3-4 mm red maculopapular lesions, which are flat and slightly raised. Pretty much this virus starts on the face, behind the ears, and moves downward all over the body. After awhile the rash begins to disappear, but the immune system is still weak. Making people who were infected with the measles more prone to other infections, making the immune system more susceptible to become infected, which in the early days of the measles caused many deaths.
With the growth of medical technology and research, a measles vaccine was produced. It is given to children before the age of four, and the measles infection is on the decline. With this vaccine, the person produces, anti-measles antibodies, which are effective in about 95-97% of the people who get the vaccine.
Once a person is infected with measles once, they usually produce lifelong protection from re-infection. This conclusion was brought up by Peter Panum in 1846, a Danish medical officer who was studying the outbreak of measles. One of the biggest outbreaks of measles was during the Civil War. This was before Louis Pasteur, Robert Koch, and Joseph Lister perfected the Germ Theory of Disease. Two-Thirds of the soldiers that died during the war, were killed by uncontrolled infections disease. At least 4,000 died of the measles on the Union side alone. This proves that once measles are in an isolated area, it is hard to control, and fighting off the disease is at a minimum.
The actual cause of why humans were infected by the measles is unknown. The main theory is that humans became infected with the disease when they were in the same area of herds of dogs. The disease was first identified a virus in 1911, when respiratory secretions of an infected person with measles, were passed through a filter designed to retard bacteria, but allow the passage of the virus. Once the conclusion of once infected with the measles, you have life long protection of never getting it again, the vaccine was developed.
As of today measles is not as bad as it was before, each year the number of measles cases goes down. Once a person gets vaccinated for the virus, it is very hard to obtain it, and with the medical technology today, fighting the disease with treatments is available for the person to overcome this virus.
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