There’s a good reason a measles case is making headlines in countries like Australia and the United States: it’s an extremely contagious virus.

When it was confirmed that an Australian tourist was carrying the disease less than a week after his last trip to New York, major U.S. news outlets posted hourly summaries of where the tourist had been so people could look for symptoms, Body & soul reported.

If you think this is an overreaction, think again. Measles is not just a childhood disease with rash and cold symptoms. Adults and young children who are not vaccinated are at risk of serious complications such as pneumonia and encephalitis.

And it’s not the only disease that’s just as bad or worse for adults than it is for children. Here are the top teething problems that adults should be aware of.

MEASLES

What is it?

Measles is a contagious virus that spreads through infected droplets. If someone with the virus coughs or sneezes, the droplets can be inhaled or ingested by surfaces. The virus stays alive for several hours. According to the World Health Organization, Australia got rid of measles in 2014, but outbreaks can occur, mostly when overseas visitors bring them to this country. In March last year, the origin of an outbreak of measles in Australia was traced back to Bali.

Symptoms:

High fever, generally feeling unwell, runny nose, cough, red and floral rash.

Is it worse for adults?

While children under the age of five are at the greatest risk of health complications from measles, adults can actually do worse than older children and teenagers. “While adults with measles have symptoms similar to children, they are more likely to get sick enough to be hospitalized,” says Associate Professor Linda Selvey of the University of Queensland’s School of Public Health. “You can also get secondary infections like pneumonia.” Health Department figures show that measles, complicated by pneumonia, is most common in people over the age of 35.

Best protection:

Most adults born after 1966 should have received two doses of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine at school. The vaccination provides about 99 percent immunity. “Most of the people who get measles are adults who haven’t been vaccinated enough,” says Selvey. If you come into contact with someone with measles, see your family doctor right away, as an immunoglobulin injection may offer some protection.

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CHICKENPOX

What is it?

Chickenpox, or varicella, spreads through infected droplets or by contact with the fluid in chickenpox blisters. “Most adults are vaccinated or abandoned as children,” says Selvey. However, in adults it can reappear as shingles.

Symptoms:

Fever, cold symptoms, and blisters that crust on. Shingles is a painful band of blisters on the trunk, often with a burning sensation or numbness.

Is it worse for adults?

Adults with chickenpox are at risk of developing pneumonia and can affect the unborn child during pregnancy. The virus can be reactivated as shingles when the immune system is weakened. This affects around a third of adults.

Best protection:

See a family doctor if you are not vaccinated. Antiviral treatment can reduce the severity of shingles, but must be taken within days of the rash appearing. Cover the rash with a bandage to reduce the risk of spreading it. Calamin lotion can relieve itching.

BEAT CHEEK

What is it?

Also known as the fifth disease, this is caused by the human parvovirus B19. It’s most common in children between the ages of four and ten, but it can be passed on to adults through touch or by inhaling infected droplets.

Symptoms:

Fever, headache, upset stomach, muscle pain and a red rash on the cheeks – hence “slap on the cheek”.

Is it worse for adults?

Adults like children get a fever, headache, sore throat, and a runny nose, but they are also more likely to get joint pain. “Avoid public places and work until you relax,” says Selvey. It usually takes two to four weeks for the pain to go away.

Best protection:

There’s no vaccine, but acetaminophen can help relieve the pain.

WHOOPING COUGH

What is it?

Pertussis, or whooping cough, is a bacterial infection of the nose and throat that spreads through infected droplets. It’s highly contagious – if one person has it at home, there is a 70-100 percent chance others will get it. About half of the cases in Australia are adults – according to the Australian government’s Department of Health, 8500 adults were infected with whooping cough in 2016.

Symptoms:

Runny nose, watery eyes, mild fever, and cough that lasts for weeks or months. Cough occurs with prolonged seizures and ends with a deep breath that creates a whooping cough. Coughing can also cause vomiting.

Is it worse for adults?

While babies are most susceptible to whooping cough, it is often overlooked in adults, especially the elderly, and can lead to complications such as pneumonia. “Adults can get pretty sick and have a very debilitating cough,” says Selvey. Pregnant women are now advised to get whooping cough vaccine to protect their baby from birth.

Best protection:

Update your pertussis vaccine at least every 10 years.

RUBELLA

What is it?

Rubella virus – also called German measles – usually shows up as a mild infection in children. It spreads through infected droplets. Australia’s child vaccination program has made it less widespread, but the vaccine may be less effective.

Symptoms:

Fever, headache, rash, joint pain.

Is it worse for adults?

Rubella during pregnancy can have serious effects on the unborn child, including deafness, blindness, heart defects, and miscarriages. Complications in adulthood can also include otitis media and inflammation of the brain.

Best protection:

Immunization (it’s part of the MMR vaccine) is the key protection against rubella.

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This article was originally published in Body & Soul and republished with permission.