Measles is a highly infectious viral illness that can be very serious. It spreads very easily through the air by sneezing or coughing, and can also be spread by contact with contaminated surfaces (from an infected person’s nose and throat secretions). If you are not immune to measles you can catch the disease just by being in the same room as someone who has it.

What to look out for

Measles usually starts 10-14 days after you have been exposed. The symptoms of measles include a fever, a cough, a runny nose, sore and watery pink eyes and sometimes small white spots appear on the back inner cheek of your mouth.

At around day 3-7 a blotchy rash which tends to start on the face before moving over your head and body. The rash can last for up to a week.

You can have measles and spread it to others before you feel sick or show any symptoms.

Protection

The best prevention against measles is the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine. Vaccines are free for children and adults who have not previously received two doses of the vaccine. Vaccination is also important if you are planning to travel anywhere overseas.

  • Check your Plunket or Well Child/Tamariki Ora book, or contact your family doctor to check whether you are protected.
  • Phone your local medical centre to arrange to be immunised if not protected - it takes 14 days to develop protection after immunisation.

What to do if you think you have measles

If you think you have measles, it’s important to see a doctor. But ring the doctor before visiting to let them know you think you have measles. When you get to the health centre or hospital, stay in the car and call (or if you have someone with you send them in) to say you’ve arrived. This will help avoid spreading the virus in the waiting room.

If you can also call Healthline on 0800 611 116 for free health advice.

How serious is measles

Measles can lead to hospitalisation, serious complications (such as pneumonia and swelling of the brain) or, in rare cases, death. It is especially dangerous for pregnant women who are not immune, babies and people with weakened immune systems.

Further information

Further information on measles is available by visiting the following websites:

Last updated 19 September 2019.