Subacute sclerosing panencephalitis is a measles complication that can claim the lives of patients even after a few years after the initial infection passes. The disorder occurs when a young patient contracts the virus that makes its way towards the brain. Even after the patient recovers, the virus can remain dormant, activating itself in a couple of years, compromising the health of the individual. In most instances, the measles complication is fatal.
According to a newly published study, subacute sclerosing panencephalitis occurs more often than doctors initially believed. It seems that when an individual gets infected, the virus spreads throughout the body. However, in some instances, it also travels to the brain where it remains dormant until an unknown outside factor activates it.
In the cases in which the dormant virus awakens, the patients live for less than two years. The disorder is fatal in every case.
Until recently, scientists believed that SSPE appeared once in 100,000 cases. However, new research has demonstrated that about one in 1,387 young patients who get infected with the measles virus before the age of five can develop the deadly disorder.
In the case of children that are less than one year old, the risk is significantly higher. It seems that one in 609 measles cases end in SSPE.
The new study is based on the detailed analyses of 17 SSPE cases. The sample consisted of individuals diagnosed with the fatal disorder between 1998 and 2015. The researchers found that the average age at which the patients got diagnosed was 12. However, they also encountered cases of SSPE in children under the age of four and individuals over the age of 35.
From the sample of 17 cases, 16 were fatal. The last patient is momentarily under hospice care.
James Cherry, the lead researcher on the study and professor at the California University, declared that a patient must be first infected with the measles to develop SSPE.
To avoid the fatal illness, parents must vaccinate their children with at least two doses of the MMR vaccine. Since measles is a highly contagious disease, immunization is the perfect prevention method.
The children who are not vaccinated are the most predisposed to the life-threatening measles complication.
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