Puffy eyes and itchy skin can be uncomfortable and distressing symptoms. Although several conditions could cause these problems, including allergic reactions, they can also be the result of two viruses: measles and rubella (also called German measles). These viruses are contagious and can be dangerous, so if you think you or someone you know has measles or rubella, it is important to seek advice from a physician as soon as possible.
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The symptoms of the two viruses are similar. In addition to puffy eyes and itchy skin, a measles sufferer might experience a high fever and cold symptoms, such as a runny nose and cough. The itchy skin is caused by a rash, which usually starts on the face and neck but spreads over the body to the hands and feet within three days. Rubella patients experience the same symptoms of a rash and a cold, as well as aching joints, but they are milder than the symptoms of measles.
Rubella patients make a full recovery and develop immunity to the disease. If a woman contracts the virus while pregnant, it can pose a serious risk to the unborn child. Complications from a rubella infection, especially during the first trimester of the pregnancy, can lead to miscarriage, congenital defects, growth problems or mental retardation in the child. Measles is more serious and potentially fatal. Children under 5 and adults over 20 years old are more at risk of developing complications, such as blindness and encephalitis, after contracting measles.
Although the symptoms of both illnesses are similar, they are caused by two different strains of virus. According to the Mayo Clinic, rubella is spread when a contagious person sneezes or coughs. Rubella patients are contagious for 10 days before their rash manifests and for one to two weeks after it disappears. Measles is highly contagious and can be transmitted through close personal contact. The virus can stay contagious for up to two hours in the air or on surfaces that an infected person has touched. A patient is contagious for four days before his rash appears and four days afterward.
The most effective prevention of both viruses is a childhood vaccine. Due to a widespread vaccination program, rubella has been almost eliminated in the USA. According to the Mayo Clinic, however, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advise parents to vaccinate their children to prevent an outbreak of the virus in the future. Children can be vaccinated against the viruses individually or in a joint vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella (also called the MMR vaccine).
In 1998, a small number of doctors suggested a link between the MMR vaccine, autism and bowel disease. Even though the link was not scientifically proven, the theory gained much media attention. Some parents avoided the MMR vaccine as a result, leaving many children exposed to the risks of measles and rubella. According to health information service Bupa, millions of MMR vaccines have been administered, and there is no evidence to suggest a link between the joint vaccine and the onset of autism.
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