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, up to 2 hours after that person has left the room.

About the vaccine

Vaccination is the best way to prevent measles.  There are two vaccines available in BC that provide protection against measles:

These vaccines are provided free as part of routine childhood immunizations and to others that need protection against measles. The MMR and MMRV vaccines are safe and effective.

Measles vaccine recommendations

Children (12 months - 18 years of age)

It is recommended that children receive two doses of measles-containing vaccine.  The first dose (MMR vaccine) is routinely given to children at 12 months of age and the second dose (MMRV vaccine) at 4-6 years of age.  

Adults (18 years of age and older, excluding health care workers)

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, evidence of immunity is required).

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

Health care workers born in 1957 or later, who do not have evidence of immunity to measles, need two doses of measles-containing vaccine. Those born before 1957 are considered immune to measles. 

Where can I find more information?

For more information about the MMR and MMRV vaccines, including the benefits, possible reactions after the vaccine and who should not get the vaccine, see the HealthLinkBC files:

http://immunizebc.ca/diseases-vaccinations/measles

About the disease

  • Measles (red measles) was a common childhood disease before widespread use of vaccines
  • Measles is very contagious and spreads easily
  • A person with measles can spread the virus to others from 4 days before to 4 days after their rash first appears. 
  • Measles starts with a cough, cold-like symptoms, red eyes, and a fever, which are followed by a rash
  • Measles 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
  • One person in every 3,000 with measles may die of complications
  • Complications and deaths are most common in infants less than twelve months old and in adults

For more information on this disease, see the Measles (14b) HealthLink BC file

Photo courtesy of Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. More vaccine preventable disease images

What will happen if I or my child gets measles?

Measles starts with a cough, cold-like symptoms and red eyes, and fever. Then a rash starting on the face and neck and spreading to the trunk and limbs appears. Complications are pneumonia affecting the lungs, ear infection, and encephalitis which is infection in the brain. Death can occur although is uncommon.

Note: If there is a case of measles at your child’s school or daycare, and your child is not up to date with their vaccines, they may be excluded from that setting until 21 days after their exposure. That’s how long it takes to see whether they have become infected.

This same rule applies to both children and staff in settings like schools and day cares, because infectious diseases spread easily in these places. It also applies to unimmunized health care workers who are exposed to measles cases in emergency rooms and hospitals.