Frequently Asked Questions About Measles

Immunisation Campaign logo © UNICEF Turkey 2004

The immunisation campaign logo features a calendar of ideal times to immunise an infant from birth (doğumda) to school-age (okulda) against major childhood diseases


What is measles?

Symptoms of measles include fever and skin rashes. The infection is mostly observed during late winter and spring. The first symptom is a fever which is followed with coughing, runny nose and reddish eyes. The rash starts on face and neck and then spreads downward to other parts of body including the arms, legs and feet. The virus takes five days to run its course before it disappears.

How and when is measles transmitted?

Measles is highly contagious. A person with measles may spread the disease to others within a period of four days before the rash appears and the four days following. The virus is spread through coughs and sneezes because it is hosted by secretions in the nose and throat. The virus can survive for two hours in the atmosphere or on any surface during which time it may still infect others.

Is measles a serious disease?

Yes. Measles is suficiently feverish and weakening to keep an infected person from going to school or work. Complications arising from measles are particularly dangerous: between 6-20% of infected persons suffer otitis, diarrhœa and even pneumonia. Brain damage is observed in 1‰ cases. In Turkey, 1% of measles cases lead to death.

Why is the measles vaccine necessary?

Vaccination is the only mode of protection against measles. The measles vaccine is highly effective and reliable and it has been used in Turkey since the ‘70s. However immunisation coverage rates are not as high as they should be and there incidence of potentially fatal cases persists.

Is measles a problem in Turkey?

Thousands of measles cases are observed in Turkey every year. The virus continues to be a health problem due to insufficient immunisation. Measles is frequently observed among infants and pre-school children and students. Children under the age of fifteen mostly contract the disease. There are relatively few cases among adults.

What is the measles vaccine?

Measles vaccine contains a weakened strain of the measles virus. It does not lead to disease. This weakened virus prepares the immune system to recognise and respond to transmissions of the virus. The measles vaccine is one of the most effective and reliable of all public health measures.

What are the side effects of the measles vaccine?

The weakened virus in the vaccine may sometimes lead to some symptoms resembling those of the disease itself. These are, however, quite light and disappear shortly afterwards. Between 5-10% persons receiving measles vaccine may have fever and a mild skin rash. In such cases, children may be given paracetamol.

The Measles Elimination Programme

What is the ‘Measles Elimination Programme’?

Elimination means that the measles virus is eradicated throughout the country. The polio virus was eradicated in 1998 and Turkey was declared ‘polio-free’ by WHO in 2002 along with fifty other European countries. The current target is to eradicate the measles virus and avoid further cases of measles and resulting deaths.

What needs to be done in order to eradicate the virus?

To eradicate the virus it is necessary to immunise children under the age of fifteen with an additional dose of measles vaccine to stop the spread of the virus. This immunisation will take place in two stages. In the autumn of 2003, all children enrolled in primary school will be immunised at their schools. The campaign will continue in 2004, either at vaccination spots or in homes, with the immunisation of all pre-school children and children between the ages of six and fourteen who are not enrolled in school.

School Immunisation Days

Why immunusation at school?

Measles is common in schools in Turkey. Children infected in their schools carry the virus home and transmit it to other members of their families. It is highly important, therefore, to protect school children from the virus.

Who will be given the vaccine on ‘School Immunisation Days’?

Read more about the Measles Elimination Programme in our Press Centre.

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