The case of a young woman who contracted measles at seven months of pregnancy is a reminder of how serious the disease can be. This particular case appears as the number of measles cases in the world increases.
While the WHO deplores a strong resurgence of measles cases worldwide, the journal BMJ Medicine reports the case of a 27-year-old British woman who was seven months pregnant and contracted measles and whose health conditions have deteriorated very rapidly.
The young woman is admitted to a hospital with fever, sore throat and high heart rate accompanied by a rash from her palms to her face. Doctors first think of a viral infection like the flu. The rash was very similar to that of measles. Measles is therefore at the very bottom of the list of possible diagnoses.
The general condition of the patient deteriorates one day after admission. She has a respiratory infection that worsens the next five days and causes respiratory arrest. The decision is made to proceed to premature delivery by caesarean section. Good news: the baby and the mother are safe and sound. The fetus had not been reached by measles and the young woman was treated successfully.
However, the correct diagnosis could only be made after the young woman's spouse came to the hospital with the symptoms of measles. It was only then that the doctors were able to make a diagnosis.
Pneumonia, hepatitis and miscarriage
Several complications can emerge from the contraction of measles during pregnancy such as pneumonia or hepatitis. In a 1993 study of 58 women with measles during pregnancy, 60% had to be hospitalized, 26% had pneumonia and 3% died of complications related to the disease. Some complications can also affect the fetus and cause miscarriage, premature birth, brain inflammation or neonatal death.
It is even more risky to contract measles that the symptoms are not the same on a pregnant woman and sometimes difficult to diagnose. Because the pregnant woman's immune system is depressed, the rash typical of measles may not be declared. It will therefore take longer for the diagnosis to be made and the treatment prescribed.
The resurgence in the number of measles cases worldwide can be largely explained by an increasing number of people who refuse to be vaccinated against the disease. This was the case of this young woman. To eradicate a disease, it is necessary to reach what is known as the collective immunity threshold, that is to say that a very large proportion of the population must be vaccinated against the disease in question in order to limit risks of epidemic.