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Measles is a very contagious virus which can stay in the air or on surfaces for up to 2 hours and outbreaks continue to occur worldwide.

Measles - What is it?

Measles is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus, called Morbillivirus that was once a very common childhood disease. Even though measles has become rare in Australia due to vaccination, there are still measles cases occurring. Outbreaks continue to occur worldwide and people who are not immune to measles can catch the disease while travelling to these countries, bring it back and spread it to others.

Measles – What are the symptoms?

Symptoms generally occur 10 to 14 days after infection.

Symptoms of measles include a fever, generally feeling unwell, cough, head cold symptoms, sore and red eyes (conjunctivitis) and a red raised rash that usually starts on the face and neck, and then spreads to the rest of the body.

Some of the complications of measles include ear infection, pneumonia (lung infection), diarrhoea and less commonly, swelling of the brain. During pregnancy measles infection can lead to miscarriage or premature delivery.

This is not a full list of symptoms that can occur following measles infection. Please speak to your doctor if you have any concerns about measles infection.

Measles – How is it spread?

Measles is highly contagious and can be spread from person to person through the air, such as when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Measles can also be spread by direct contact when someone touches a surface or object that has been contaminated with the virus.

People infected with measles can often spread the disease from 4 days before they get any symptoms and for up to 4 days after the rash has appeared.

Measles – Who is at risk?

Anyone who has not been vaccinated is at risk of measles infection. Particularly children, adolescents and young adults, health care workers, and travellers are at higher risk of infection.

People with a chronic illness, children younger than 5 years and adults are at an increased risk of measles complications.

Other people may be at risk of measles infection. Please speak to your doctor regarding your individual circumstances.

Measles – Vaccination

Measles vaccination is recommended and provided free for all children as part of the National Immunisation Program (NIP). Measles-containing vaccine is usually given at 12 and 18 months of age.

The second dose of measles-containing vaccine was previously given at 4 years of age in combination with mumps and rubella (MMR). From 1 July 2013, the schedule was changed so children now receive the second dose of measles, mumps and rubella at 18 months of age in combination with varicella (MMRV). Children who have already received their 18 month vaccination for varicella only, will continue to receive the 2nd dose of measles mumps and rubella vaccine at 4 years of age until all children have received 2 doses of measles, mumps and rubella vaccine.

Two doses of measles, mumps and rubella vaccine are recommended for anyone who is not immune. Anyone born during or after 1966 should have their vaccination records reviewed to ensure they have received 2 doses of measles, mumps and rubella vaccine.

If you are planning to become pregnant, please discuss with your doctor if measles vaccination is appropriate for you.

It is important to complete the recommended course of vaccinations to help protect against measles infection and help maintain immunity.

Measles – Treatment

There is no specific treatment for measles. Treatment is aimed at relieving symptoms and can include bed rest, drinking plenty of fluids, reducing fever and pain and reducing the risk of spreading the disease by staying away from others.

For information about measles immunisation in your area, contact your State or Territory Health Department or doctor.


Some side effects may be experienced following vaccination. Please discuss any side effects or concerns with your healthcare professional.




AUS/VAC/0020/15. Date of approval: March 2015.