MMR Decision Aid - Comparing the risks - Measles

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Common symptoms of measles

These are usually mild symptoms and include fever, loss of appetite, rash, diarrhoea, runny nose, cough and red painful eyes. Children who get measles usually have to spend about 5 days in bed and have to take 10 to 14 days off from school, if there is no serious complication.18

Complications of measles

These are usually serious conditions and include ear infections, pneumonia, fits or convulsions, croup, inflammation of the brain (encephalitis), which could result in hospitalisation. A late complication of measles is subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE), which causes progressive brain damage and nearly always results in death.

The table below compares the potential problems caused by measles with the potential problems caused by the MMR vaccine.

Green - Common, usually mild symptoms that can be treated at home.

Yellow - Moderate complications that need medical attention but may not include hospitalisation.

Red - Serious complications that need urgent medical attention and could include hospitalisation.

Potential risks in a group of 100
children under 5 years of age
who get measles

Most children will have the common and usually mild (in green) symptoms of measles e.g. fever, cough, runny nose, red, painful eyes, rash. Some may have more than one of these symptoms at the same time.

 

Potential risks in a group of 100
children who have the MMR
vaccine

Most will have common and usually mild (in green) symptoms of the MMR vaccine e.g. pain or swelling at the injection site, joint pain and stiffness. Some may have more than one of these symptoms at the same time.

 

26 in 100 may have moderate
(in yellow) symptoms
12 may have diarrhoea
14 may get an ear infection

 

14 in 100 may have moderate
(in yellow) symptoms
4 may have high fever
4 may be irritable
1 may have swelling of salivary glands
5 may have a non-infectious faint red rash

15 in 100 may have serious (in red) symptoms
9 may get pneumonia
5 may have measles croup
1 may have fever-induced convulsion
Some may be hospitalised for any of the above symptoms

 

Rare Complications

2 in 1,000 children may have inflammation of the brain (encephalitis). Encephalitis from any reason may result in children surviving with permanent brain damage or death.[7]

 

Rare Complications

Uncertain; a maximum of one child may develop encephalitis.[19]

3 in 1,000 children develop thrombocytopenia(tendancy for bruising or bleeding)[20] 

 

26 in 1,000,000 children may have thrombocytopenia.[20]

1 in 100, 000 children may get subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE), a late complication of measles, which causes progressive brain damage and nearly always results in death

 

No children will get subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE).[21]

 

 


Copyright University of Leeds and NCIRS 2009 - Last updated date 16 Sept 2009

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