Measles is one of the most highly infectious diseases.  It is caused by the measles virus and is a leading cause of vaccine preventable deaths in children worldwide.

Illness begins with a fever, cough, runny nose, and watery inflamed eyes. Small red spots with white or bluish white centers may be seen in the mouth.
A dusky red, blotchy rash that begins on the face and then spreads all over the body  begins on 3rd to 7th day of illness and lasts for up to 7 days – fever is still present after the rash appears. Complications include ear infections, diarrhea, pneumonia and encephalitis (brain inflammation) which may lead to brain damage or death, occur in up to 30% of cases.

Contact your GP or Healthline (0800 611 116) for further advice.

How is it spread?

Measles is spread through the air by droplets that have been coughed, sneezed, or breathed by an infected person. The measles virus can survive in small droplets in the air for several hours. Measles is also spread through direct contact with nose and throat secretions of an infected person.

Time between exposure and illness

  • Usually about 10 days
  • Fever usually develops 7 - 18 days after exposure to infected person
  • Rash usually develops 14 days after exposure to the infected person.

Infectious period

  • From about 5 days before, until 5 days after the rash appears.

Prevention of spread to others

Exclude children from school, child care, and non-family contacts until 5 days after the rash appears.

It is recommended that all contacts of a measles case who have not had measles disease or 2 doses of a measles vaccine, receive measles vaccine within 3 days of their last exposure to the infected person – this reduces the risk they will get measles.

Unimmunised contacts who do not have a history of measles confirmed by a blood or swab test may be excluded from school, preschool or childcare  by the Medical Officer of Health for up to 14 days after exposure.

Important Reminder

  • Vaccination is the only effective way to prevent measles
  • MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) vaccine is part of the routine childhood immunisation schedule and is given free at 15 months and 4 years of age. These two doses are over 99% effective in providing protection.