What is measles?

Measles is a highly infectious disease caused by the measles virus.

How is it spread?

The measles virus spreads through close contact with the nose and throat secretions (e.g., mucus) of an infected person especially during coughs and sneezes. Measles virus is able to survive in small droplets in the air for at least several hours.

Less commonly, the virus can spread through contact with articles freshly soiled (e.g., clothes) with nasal and throat secretions of the infected person.

What are the symptoms?

The first symptoms are fever, aches and pain, runny nose, red inflamed eyes and cough. You may notice spots (called Koplik’s spots) in the mouth. These spots look like small grains of sand on a red base and you will most often see them on the inner cheek opposite the molars.

A rash (large red spots) appears on the face and head and spreads down over the body to the arms and legs.

When do symptoms start?

You will usually start experiencing symptoms seven to 18 days after you are exposed to the virus.

How long are people infectious?

Individuals with measles are usually infectious to others four days before and up to four days after the start of the rash.

How can measles be prevented?


We can prevent measles by getting vaccinated!

In an effort to eliminate the measles virus, all children should get the vaccine! All children should receive the measles containing vaccine (MMRV) at 12 and 18 months of age.

Public Health has issued specific recommendations for those who are travelling outside Canada, particularly to areas where measles is known to spread or to an area where there is a measles outbreak:

  • Infants six to 12 months of age should receive one dose of MMR vaccine prior to travelling. These children will still need to get the MMRV vaccine at 12 and 18 months of age.
  • Individuals born in or after 1970 should ensure they have had two doses of MMR vaccine prior to travelling.
  • Individuals born before 1970 should ensure they have had one dose of MMR vaccine prior to travelling.

Good Health Habits

The following good health habits can help prevent the spread of measles and more:

  • Clean hands well and often and teach children to clean their hands too.
  • Do not share eating or drinking utensils.
  • Regularly clean surfaces that are frequently touched (e.g., toys, door knobs, tables, and counters) with soap and water or cleaning wipes.
  • Minimize close contact with other people when they are sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Put your used tissue in the trash can and wash your hands. If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow.

What do I do if I have symptoms?

If you develop symptoms of measles, please call a health-care provider or 811 immediately for further instruction (unless it is a medical emergency).

If you feel sick after returning from travel abroad, you are encouraged to put on a well-fitting N95 mask or medical mask and limit contact with others. Tell a flight attendant, cruise staff member, or border services officer when entering the country to help reduce the spread of infectious diseases in Canada.

What is the treatment?

There is no specific treatment for measles. You can relieve symptoms such as fever, aches, and pain with acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol).

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Last updated: 2024-04-24