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Should we worry about measles in the Netherlands?

March 4, 2024

Measles is on the rise. More and more children are affected by the disease. But should we worry about that? And how sick does it actually make you? Virologist Rik de Swart: "It is the most contagious disease we know."

About 10 years ago, researchers thought the childhood disease was almost extinct, but now it is emerging again. At the end of last year, the World Health Organization (WHO) itself indicated that the number of measles infections had increased sharply.

Immune system as target

But what exactly is measles? Virologist Rik de Swart says: "It is an infectious disease caused by a virus and spread through the air." So you can be infected by someone else's cough, for example. "The main target of the virus is the immune system. So the virus infects white blood cells everywhere in your body. And in doing so, it actually weakens the immune system against other infections." This makes you more susceptible to other diseases and ailments.

Clear symptoms

Measles has clear symptoms: red spots and fever. You can only get it once in your life and you generally recover after a few days, says the virologist. "That is, if you have measles without complications." With complications, the disease can become a lot more dangerous. "In 80 to 90 percent of cases it is a disease that goes away on its own and from which people do not have to suffer anything. But in a small group of children it can actually cause a very serious infection and can therefore also lead to hospitalization and in rare cases, death."

Watch the whole article (in Dutch)