Measles can be very serious. It has the highest fever of the three illnesses and makes children the sickest. Even if they don’t end up in the hospital from the illness, infected children spend the week in bed, laid low by the virus. Severe complications include encephalitis and pneumonia. The risk of severe brain damage from encephalitis is one in a thousand cases. Death from measles occurs in one to three in a thousand cases, with the patient dying either from encephalitis or pneumonia.
There is no specific treatment for measles, and thus, the medical community must provide supportive care until the body recovers on its own. This might include IV fluids and nutrition, oxygen, and even breathing tubes for severe lung infections. There is a recommendation for vitamin A supplementation in certain circumstances, based on limited data that suggest that the supplement decreases the severity of illness and risk of death.
Mumps is a less severe illness and is less severe in children than in adults. Most of the severe complications, such as swelling of the testicles (orchitis) and sterility, occur in adults. The death rate is lower than measles, about two in ten thousand cases, with the majority of deaths occurring in adults. If a pregnant mother develops a mumps infection during the first three months of pregnancy, she has a slightly increased risk of a miscarriage, but there is no increased risk of birth defects. Like measles, there is no specific treatment for the illness, and the care is merely supportive.
Rubella is a very mild illness for the recipient, with only a mild rash, fever, and swollen lymph nodes for most patients. There are no reports of death from the virus. The major concern with rubella is that a pregnant mother who develops rubella can suffer a miscarriage, stillbirth, or fetal birth defects. Once again, there is no treatment for rubella, merely supportive care.