Asian Eye Institute retina and vitreous specialist Dr. Patricia Quilendrino with a patient On February 10, 2019, the Department of Health reported 4,300 cases of measles nationwide including 70 confirmed deaths.
Measles is a highly contagious disease that spreads when an infected person sneezes or coughs. It begins with high fever, cough and runny nose. An infected person also experiences red, watery eyes or conjunctivitis. Three to five days later, a rash of tiny red spots appears.
Some measles patients experience an ear infection, bronchitis, pneumonia, encephalitis (brain swelling), pregnancy problems and eye problems.
According to Asian Eye Institute retina and vitreous specialist Dr. Patricia Quilendrino, severe cases of measles may affect the cornea (the clear surface of the eye), retina (back part of the eye) or optic nerve (which sends images from the eye to the brain). These complications may lead to long-term and potentially blinding problems, including:
- Keratitis—The infection of the cornea that temporarily blurs vision; it may result in permanent vision loss if it leads to corneal scarring.
- Corneal scarring—Open sores on the cornea that appear as white dots; when healed, the ulcers can cause scarring and interfere with vision.
- Retinopathy—There are cases where the measles virus affects the retina. Although it rarely happens, some cases lead to permanent to vision loss.
Optic neuritis—Swelling of the optic nerve. In rare cases, it can occur in measles patients who have developed encephalitis.
Quilendrino strongly urges parents to have their children vaccinated.
She explains: “Measles can be more dangerous for babies and young kids, especially if they have not been vaccinated and are vitamin A-deficient. The MMR vaccine will protect children from three diseases— measles, mumps and rubella. Children are usually recommended to get two doses. The first one is when they are between 12 and 15 months old, and the second one when they are between the ages of 4 and 5.”
Those who will be traveling internationally and adults who have no evidence of immunity should also get at least a dose of the MMR vaccine.
To prevent spreading and acquiring measles, cover your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing; avoid close contact with people who are sick; avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth; and, most importantly, wash your hands frequently. If there is no soap and water, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. And if a family member has measles, isolate them four days before to four days after the rash appears.
Finally, Quilendrino advises kids and family members to undergo a comprehensive eye exam to fight against eye complications of measles.
“Make sure to visit your eye doctor and talk to them about any changes in vision, eye discharge or other unusual symptoms. It is also important to avoid self-medicating to prevent further harming your eyes,” Quilendrino says.