| Where Did Measles Come From ?
Measles is a viral infection that causes characteristic rash on the body. In addition, the infected person also suffers from fever, cough, runny nose and red watery eyes.
The infection is highly contagious, and it is transmitted through airborne droplets when the infected person coughs and sneezes. Usually the infection does not require any treatment, and goes away on its own. Once a person gets measles, he or she develops life long immunity.The question remains where did measles come from. It is believed that measles could have come from a dog disease known as distemper. Centuries ago when man was domesticating dog, it is quite possible that the disease jumped from the animal onto the humans after the virus mutated. This most probably occurred when humans started living in cities because the virus that causes measles requires a large population to sustain itself. So, measles could have started around 2000 BC in West Africa.
Thucydides is the first to mention a disease with symptoms similar to measles. This disease is more popularly known as the plaque of Athens which occurred in 430 BC. However, there is some dispute over the disease being measles as some historians believe that it could have typhoid fever. Even the Roman Empire was not spared by measles. The first outbreak appears to have occurred in 165 AD. Another severe outbreak occurred in 251 AD in Carthage. This outbreak is considered to measles based on the description of Galen, who was a Roman doctor.
However, the first scientific description of measles was written by Ibn Razi, a Persian physician, in 900 AD. He also wrote how to distinguish measles from the dreaded smallpox. However, Ibn Razi assumed that measles and smallpox were related to the same disease.
By 1500s, most adult population in Europe, Asia and North Africa had already been afflicted by measles. Therefore, the adults were immune to the infection. As a result, it was the children who were being struck down by the viral infection. In 1500 AD, the European explorers and traders brought measles as well as smallpox to North and South Americas. This wreaked havoc among the indigenous population as the natives had no immunity to the disease.
Finally a vaccine for measles was developed in 1950s by John Enders, and then in the 1960s children in North America and Europe were vaccinated using this vaccine.
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