When the five-month-old son of Marissa Santos had recovered from measles, more commonly known as “tigdas,” Santos thought that that would be her son’s last encounter with the measles virus. Six years later, Santos’ son started to show symptoms of a rare and serious complication caused by measles—subacute sclerosing panencephalitis or SSPE. Santos says she hopes parents can take advantage of vaccination to help prevent measles and SSPE among their children.
Measles is a serious and highly contagious viral respiratory disease. The symptoms of measles include high-grade fever, rashes, and the three C’s—namely cough, conjunctivitis, and coryza. Measles can result in serious complications even among previously healthy children. The virus that causes measles can mutate and cause fatal complications.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that in 2018, more than 140,000 people—most of them children under five years old—died of measles. This was despite the availability of a safe and effective vaccine against the disease. According to the WHO, before the measles vaccine became widely used, major measles epidemics happened around every two to three years. Measles led to an estimated 2.6 million deaths per year.