MMR – Truths, Figures, and Facts


MMR, standing for Measles, Mumps, and Rubella, has been 3 of the most deadly health killers in Malaysia and the world over the years with each one of the diseases are linked to very damaging and deadly health complications. The concerns are so serious that there is a need for people to be acquainted with these facts before we all just become another statistic.

Measles: The Historic Killer

Measles, is one of the top causes of death for young children all over the world. The disease has been described to be “the most infectious of microbial agents”. In fact, until an actual vaccine for measles was introduced in 1963, just about all children contracted the disease.

Most cases of measles start with a light cough and low fever, along with runny eyes and nose as well as symptoms of the common cold. The disease then progresses with the cough increasing in severity and the person’s eyes become swollen, red and sensitive to light. Fevers at this point can go as high as 104-105 degrees Fahrenheit. The next stage of the illness involves the inside of person’s mouth being covered with grayish-white dots. Rashes then appear behind the ears and spreads to the face and to the rest of the body.

Measles is also very easily spread and passed on. The virus can be transferred to others simply by coughing, sneezing or even just breathing near the person. People who contract this virus are exposed to relatively high chances for damaging complications such as brain infections and blindness.

Mumps: More Dangerous with Age

Mumps is considered to be a common childhood infection. However, it’s one with several potential complications that includes the inflammation or swelling of the brain, testis, heart, and joints.

The most identifiable symptom is swelling of the salivary glands, which makes the carrier of the virus appear to have ‘chipmunk cheeks.’ Just like measles, mumps is very easily spread through the air via the breath of the infected. Aside from that, the disease also causes various conditions such as fever, headache, earache, and vomiting. Swelling usually occurs in front of the ears right above the jaw line. One or both sides of your face could also swell up. Eating becomes a painful task as saliva tends to irritate the swollen glands.

Usually, if the disease is contracted by children, the effects are very mild and recovery comes without complications but when the case is with teenagers and adults, effects have a chance of becoming severe. Such cases have a chance of causing an inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord (called meningitis). There is also a rare chance that the brain itself will be inflamed causing permanent brain damage, deafness, or even death. Male teens and adult that contract the mumps may also develop painful inflammation and swelling of the testicles (called orchitis) that may result to him becoming sterile.

Rubella: Pregnancy’s Bane

Also known as German Measles, rubella is usually a mild childhood disease but now, the disease is manifesting itself on teenagers and adults where its effects can be much more devastating.

Rubella, just like Measles and Mumps, are airborne viruses and is spread in the same way as the aforementioned diseases. Initial symptoms are those of a mild cold, low fever, and swelling of the glands found in the back of the neck and under the chin. Glands behind the ears can also become enlarged. A pinkish rash appears on the face, which then spreads to the rest of the body. Unlike measles, the rubella rash isn’t as red and generally goes away by the third to fifth day.

Recovery from rubella is usually quick and grants lifelong immunity to the disease but occasionally, brain inflammation and chronic arthritis can occur and cause permanent damage. The worst thing about rubella is that if a woman gets rubella during here 1st trimester of pregnancy, there is a 20 to 25% chance for a miscarriage or the baby will be born deformed with heart defects, mental retardation, bone alterations, vision abnormalities, and / or loss of hearing.

The Figures behind the Letters

Measles – It was in 1982 when a single-dose measles vaccine was included in the Expanded Program of Immunization (EPI) in Malaysia. Back then, the incidence rate of measles was 65.2 cases per 100,000 population. As vaccination coverage increased, measles occurrences decreased dramatically. From 1989 to 1998 the incidence rates shrunk to about 1.51 and 5.87 cases per 100,000 population. While instances have indeed decreased, there is still a cause for alarm and a need to take precautions against Measles as it still claims a huge amount of lives. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 334 reported cases of measles have been reported in Malaysia and an estimated 164,000 have died globally as of 2008.

Mumps – About 15 percent of mumps cases could affect the central nervous system. For 20 to 50 percent of post-adolescence male patients, cases could lead to proctitis (inflammation of anus and lining of rectum). One in every 20,000 patients would also suffer from hearing loss while one in 10,000 patients could die of the infection. In 1968, the US had about 152,209 cases of mumps reported, the highest number of cases ever in a single year. In 2002, however, the number shrank to 270 reported cases.

Rubella – Once the disease hits the blood circulation system of the pregnant woman and reaches the fetus through the placenta, deformation and abnormalities in the fetus may occur. 60 percent suffer from loss of hearing, 45 percent develop heart abnormalities, 27 percent suffer from microcephaly, 25 percent from cataract, 23 percent come out with a low birth weight (less than 2.5 kg), and 13 percent become mentally retarded. In 1969, a record high of 57,686 cases of rubella reported in the U.S. The good news is that as the years have progressed, the situation has improved. Only 160 cases were reported in 1992 in the U.S. with one death resulting from disease complications. Only 18 reported cases were reported in the US in 2002.

Don’t be a Statistic, Get Vaccinated

Since MMR vaccines came into Malaysia, the cases of these three infections have significantly dropped but such progress needs to be maintained by making sure that everyone is vaccinated. Since the measles vaccine was introduced in Malaysia, infection cases have dropped from 65.62 percent in 1982 to 6 percent in 2005. In 1999 and 2000, however, it went up to 11.48 percent and 26.59 percent respectively and was due to ineffective vaccines and failure in vaccination.

More and more developments are being made to ensure that effective vaccines are available. Recently, an MMRV Vaccine has been released to include Chicken Pox as well. Consult with your doctor. Ensure that you get yourself and your loved ones protected from these killer diseases.





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