Measles

Last updated/revised:  March 11, 2024

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The measles virus is in the nose and throat of an infected person. It can spread easily to others when they come in contact with droplets of an infected person or the air where an infected person has breathed, coughed or sneezed. The virus can enter the body through the eyes, nose, or mouth.

Someone who is contagious with measles can spread it to others from four days before a rash appears to four days after the rash appears.

The measles virus can live up to two hours in the air after an infected person leaves the area.

Symptoms & Illness

Symptoms may start around 10 days after being exposed but can start anywhere from 7 to 21 days after exposure. Symptoms generally last for one to two weeks.

Symptoms include:

  • fever
  • red rash starts on the face and spreads down the body
  • runny nose
  • cough
  • red and watery eyes
  • feeling tired
  • small white spots (Koplik spots) can appear on the inside of the mouth and throat

Infants under 12 months and people who are pregnant or have a weak immune system can get very sick from measles.

Measles can also lead to:

  • dehydration
  • ear infections
  • lung infections (pneumonia)
  • swelling of the brain (encephalitis)
  • hearing loss
  • seizures
  • permanent brain damage (subacute sclerosing panencephalitis)
  • death

Measles in pregnancy can lead to premature delivery, low birth weight and miscarriage.

Everyone in Ontario is eligible for 2 doses of publicly funded measles (via MMR or MMRV) vaccine, however, the recommendations are below and online.

Measles vaccine status based on age:

  • >1 year of age: 1st dose of MMR (measles, mumps, rubella)
  • 4-6 years of age: 2nd dose of MMRV (measles, mumps, rubella, viracella)
  • 25 years of age and younger: 2 doses of MMR are recommended
  • 26 years of age and older: 1 dose of MMR is recommended unless high risk criteria** are met and then two doses are recommended.  
    • **High Risk criteria includes: Health care workers, post-secondary students, planning to travel where disease is of concern and/or based on health care provider’s clinical judgement.  

The MMR vaccine is very safe and effective, efficacy with 1 dose is 93% and 2 doses is 97%. For those planning to travel it is also important to note that the vaccine takes 2-3 weeks to reach full effect.

Where to get the vaccine:

The measles vaccine is available at your health care provider’s office.  Individuals without a health care provider can book an appointment at the Peterborough Public Health Routine Immunization Clinic by calling 705-743-1000, ext. 331. 

If you think you have Measles, it is important to:

  • Isolate immediately by staying home and avoiding contact with others.
  • Call before visiting a clinic or hospital so they can prepare for your arrival and prevent virus spread.
  • Wear a well-fitting, high-quality mask when seeking medical assessment.

Your doctor will assess you for measles and will test you if they suspect you have measles.

Been exposed to measles?

As a precaution, everyone who was exposed should monitor for symptoms.

If you do not have vaccination records, and cannot obtain then, then you can get revaccinated. You can contact your health care provider. Parents can update vaccination records for school-aged children.