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Measles a highly infectious viral illness, which spreads rapidly from person to person. It is one of the leading causes of death among young children, the majority occurring in developing countries where immunisation is patchy (WHO 2013).
The initial symptoms are similar to the common cold with runny nose, cough, red and watery eyes and fever. This is followed by a rash, which spreads throughout the body.
Complications of measles tend to occur in children under 5 years or adults over 20 years and include encephalitis (infection of the brain) and pneumonia (infection of the lungs).
There is no specific treatment for measles.
Mumps is a viral infection mainly of childhood and affects the salivary glands.
Symptoms appear 2 to 3 weeks after infection and include headache, fever, muscle ache and swelling of the salivary glands.
It tends to be mild in children, but in adults, can lead to complications such as meningitis, deafness and orchitis (infection of the testicles).
There is no specific treatment available for mumps.
Rubella is an acute viral illness that is spread easily from person to person by coughing or sneezing. It is mainly an infection of children and is generally mild in this group. However, rubella in pregnancy is a severe and potentially fatal illness for the unborn baby.
Symptoms include rash and fever and usually occur 2 to 3 weeks after exposure.
In adults, it can also cause painful joints and arthritis,
There is no specific treatment for rubella
The MMR Vaccine
The vaccine is effective at preventing all three illnesses and can be given from 12 months of age. It is particularly important to check if you are vaccinated against MMR before travelling as infection is prevalent in Asia, Africa and South America.
Because the illness is easily transmitted through air, MMR immunity is necessary for certain jobs.