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HealthInfo Canterbury

Measles

Measles is an illness caused by a virus. It's very infectious, meaning it spreads very easily.

When someone with measles coughs, sneezes and talks, they release droplets into the air. You can catch measles by breathing in the droplets. You can also catch it from touching an infected surface or object such as a door handle.

People who haven't been vaccinated or have a poor immune system have a higher risk of getting measles.

Symptoms of measles include fever, cough, inflamed red eye (conjunctivitis) and runny nose.

The fever usually starts 10 to 14 days after you're exposed to the virus. After three to five days a rash appears, which is red with small raised bumps. It usually starts behind your neck and ears before spreading to the rest of your body.

Measles can sometimes cause serious problems such as swelling on the brain.

How can I avoid getting measles?

Vaccination is the best way to prevent measles. The MMR vaccine is used to prevent measles, mumps and rubella. Children receive this vaccine at 15 months and 4 years as part of the National Immunisation Schedule. Immunisation is 99% effective after the second dose.

How do I know if I have measles?

If you think you or your child has measles, you should visit your GP for testing and assessment. Your GP may arrange for a throat swab and a blood sample to be tested.

How is measles treated?

There's no medicine to treat measles. The treatment is aimed at relieving symptoms. Rest, drink plenty of fluids and use paracetamol or ibuprofen (ask your GP or pharmacist for advice) to help with fever and pain.

What can I do to help myself with measles?

If you think you or your child has measles, you should contact your GP and they'll tell you what to do.

When and where should I seek help?

You should take your child back to your GP if they become very drowsy, confused or unresponsive.

How can I avoid spreading measles?

If you have measles you'll be infectious from one day before the symptoms start to four days after the rash appears. Your GP will tell you how long you need to stay away from other people.

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed June 2018. Last updated November 2018.

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