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MEASLES And The Risks of Rash Decisions

Measles has been described by one author as “an inevitable infection during human development with a substantial degree of morbidity and mortality”.

It is caused by a virus, the Morbilla virus (hence the old name for measles, morbilla). The origin of the virus in humans remains unclear but it seems likely that it evolved from a cattle virus in Africa about 2000 years ago and now humans are the only host for the virus.

The first accurate description of the signs and symptoms of measles were recorded in Persia in the 9th century by the great Islamic physician Abu Bakr Muhammad Ibn Zakariya al- Razi, one of the great thinkers in and pioneers of what we now regard as Western medicine.

But the spread of measles around the world was ultimately a by-product of imperialism. The conquests of Greece, Persia and Egypt by the Romans brought back devastating infections such as measles to the heart of Rome where the impact on the ‘virgin’ population who had never been exposed before was profound and almost catastrophic.

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