Measles

Did you know?

Measles is highly contagious. You can catch measles just by being in a room where a person with measles has been. 

The disease

  • Measles, also known as red measles, causes fever, rash, cold-like symptoms and red, inflamed eyes that can be sensitive to light.
  • Measles is very contagious and spreads easily. When an infected person breathes, coughs, or sneezes, the virus spreads through the air. The measles virus can survive in small droplets in the air for several hours.
  • It can lead to infections of the ear or lungs (pneumonia).
  • More serious complications, occurring in 1 person in 1,000, include encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain. This can lead to seizures, deafness or permanent brain damage.
  • About one person in 3,000 with measles can die from complications.

The vaccine

The measles vaccine is given as the combined measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine

  • Children are routinely given two doses of the MMR vaccine. The first dose is given at 12 months and the second dose is given at 4-6 years of age. Children 4 - 12 years of age who also need protection against chickenpox (varicella) can get their second dose as the combined measles, mumps, rubella and varicella (MMRV) vaccine.
  • Older children and teens who have not been immunized should also get two doses of the MMR vaccine. 
  • The MMR vaccine may be recommended for infants aged 6 to 11 months who will be travelling to countries where there is measles disease, or that are known to have been in contact with someone with measles. 
  • Two doses of measles-containing vaccine are recommended for adults born in 1970 or later who have not had measles disease (for those who have had measles disease, a blood test is needed to confirm immunity).
  • Adults born before 1970 are generally assumed to have acquired immunity to measles from natural infection. However, there may be susceptible people in this age group, and those without a history of measles disease or vaccination should talk to their health care provider about getting vaccinated.
  • Health care workers born in 1957 or later, who do not have evidence of immunity to measles, need two doses of measles-containing vaccine.  Health care workers born before 1957 are considered immune to measles.