The truth about mumps, measles and rubella

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Keep reading to know the important facts about mumps, measles and rubella in children.

Mumps

What is it?1

Mumps is a viral infection that causes painful swelling in the parotid glands, i.e. the glands that produce saliva.

Serious complications can arise from mumps such as brain infection, orchitis (swelling in the scrotum), deafness and pancreatitis.

How does it spread? 1

Mumps is highly contagious. It can be spread by coughing, sneezing and through the saliva of an infected person. It can also be spread by contact with contaminated items and surfaces.     

Incubation/ infectious period1

The incubation period is about 18 days. It is contagious 1-2 days before the appearance of symptoms to 1-2 days after the symptoms disappear.

mumps The truth about mumps, measles and rubella

A child with mumps. Image credited to CDC, obtained from Public Health Image Library (phil.cdc.gov/phil/home.asp)

Signs and symptoms1

Fever, headache, sore throat, swollen parotid glands (glands that produce saliva) in neck, temples or jaw, and facial pain. 

Preventive measures1

Mumps is preventable through vaccination. The mumps vaccine can be given in the MMR vaccine that includes the vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella. 

 

Measles

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What is it?

Measles is a contagious viral infection common in children. However, measles can be contracted at any age. Although most people recover completely, some may develop complications2.

Measles affects the respiratory system and causes the skin to develop a rash2.

In January 2014, the Philippines announced measles outbreaks in a number of cities in Metro Manila and in Pampanga. In Singapore, 23 cases had a travel history to the Philippines in 2014 (as of 5 April). This is in addition to 49 local cases reported during the same period3.

How does it spread? 2

People with no immunity to the virus may get measles from close contact with an infected person.

The virus spreads through by infected persons when they cough or sneeze. The virus can also be contracted through contaminated objects and surfaces. 

Incubation/ infectious period2

An infected person is contagious 1-2 days before symptoms appear, and up to 4 days after the rash appears.

measles The truth about mumps, measles and rubella

A child with measles. Image credited to CDC/NIP/Barbara Rice, obtained from Public Health Image Library (phil.cdc.gov/phil/home.asp).

Signs and symptoms2

First signs may appear 10-12 days after contact with an infected person. Early signs and symptoms include runny or blocked nose, cough, red eyes, fever, malaise and tearing.

Tiny white spots with a red background (Koplik’s spots) inside the mouth may also appear 2-4 days after the initial symptoms. They are accompanied, either at the same time or slightly later, by the appearance of rash. It begins at the face and behind the ears, then spread downwards to the rest of the body.

Preventive measures

Measles can be prevented with the Mumps, Measles and Rubella (MMR) vaccine2. 

 

Rubella

What is it?4

Also known as German measles, rubella is a highly infectious viral infection that commonly affects children.

Although, rubella infection is often mild, it can be serious when the infection occurs in pregnant women especially in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. The baby may be born with a congenital rubella syndrome (CRS) which is a condition comprising serious organ defects of the heart, brain, eyes and ears.

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How does it spread?4

The disease is caused by the rubella virus and is transmitted through air or by close contact. An infected mother can also pass the virus to the foetus.

Incubation/ infectious period4

An infected person is contagious from 1 week before the rash appears until 1 week after the rash disappears.

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Signs and symptoms4

Low grade fever, swollen lymph nodes behind the ears and at the back and sides of the head, loss of appetite, irritability and loss of interest in personal care.  In about half of the cases, a rash may start on the face and spread to the neck, torso and the rest of the body. 

Preventive measures4

Rubella is preventable with the Mumps, Measles and Rubella (MMR) vaccine.

When planning a pregnancy it is best to get tested for the presence of rubella antibodies. This should be done at least 3 months before trying to get pregnant. If antibodies are not present, a rubella vaccine can be given.

 

Addressing the MMR and autism myth

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There is a myth that the Mumps, Measles and Rubella (MMR) vaccine causes autism. This myth came about  in 1998 after a study was published, which raised concerns about a possible link between measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism5.

This study was later found to be seriously flawed and was retracted by the journal that published it. Unfortunately, this study created a panic that led to dropping immunization rates, and subsequent outbreaks of these diseases5.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there is no evidence of a link between the MMR vaccine and autism or autistic disorders5. 

 

If you have further questions about these diseases, please discuss these with your child’s doctor. 

 

References:

  1. Health Promotion Board; Mumps; available at www.hpb.gov.sg/HOPPortal/dandc-article/564; last viewed on 02/07/2014.
  2. Health Promotion Board; Measles; available at hpb.gov.sg/HOPPortal/article?id=562; last viewed on 02/07/2014.
  3. Ministry of Health; Health advisory on measles; available at www.moh.gov.sg/content/moh_web/home/pressRoom/Current_Issues/2014/health-advisory-on-measles.html; last viewed on 02/07/2014.
  4. Health Promotion Board; Rubella; available at www.hpb.gov.sg/HOPPortal/health-article/576?orginalId=2990; last viewed on 02/07/2014.
  5. World Health Organization; What are some of the myths – and facts – about vaccination?; available at www.who.int/features/qa/84/en/; last viewed 21/10/2014.

 

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