Vitamin A and Measles: Prevention and Treatment Outcomes

Measles is a dangerous disease with a lacking availability of specialized therapies. This has been especially evident in the recent outbreak of measles that has reached over 80 cases – the largest outbreak New York State has seen in decades.

What is Measles?

Measles is an extremely contagious, viral respiratory infection transmitted through the air. Symptoms include a fever, cough, a widespread rash, and itching. Approximately 1 in 3 people who are diagnosed with measles suffer from complications. These complications range in severity, including pneumonia, swelling of the brain, and death. In fact, measles is a significant cause of death in children, killing about 2 million children every year. Further, a larger number of children are left with irreparable blindness or lung disease. While cases of measles have dropped 99% since the 1960s, the disease still has not been completely eradicated.

Vitamin A and Measles

The notion of vitamin A having a protective effect in measles was first suggested more than 50 years ago, with multiple studies since then showing positive results. Studies have found that a series of vitamin A megadoses administered for two days reduced the number of measles-related deaths in hospitalized children. Researchers have concluded that vitamin A is effective in reducing mortality from measles in children younger than two years old and there is a low likelihood of adverse effects occurring.


Additionally, measles has been found especially prevalent in children with vitamin A deficiency. Children with vitamin A deficiency are at a greater risk of illness and death from respiratory tract infections, as the pre-existing deficiency often worsens the condition of the affected person. In a research study titled “A Randomized, Controlled Trial of Vitamin A in Children with Severe Measles”, the authors write:


“Treatment with vitamin A reduces morbidity and mortality in measles, and all children with severe measles should be given vitamin A supplements, whether or not they are thought to have a nutritional deficiency.”


The measles infection has shown to compromise nutrition levels while maintaining nutrition prior to contracting the disease lowers the risk of long-term health effects or death. That being said, the nutrient that shows to play the most critical role in those who suffer from measles is vitamin A. Because of this, it is clear that vitamin A is one of the most important ways to prevent measles in children and adults.


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