Measles is caused by a virus that can spread by coughs and sneezes and is one of the most infectious diseases in the world, just spending 15 minutes or more in direct contact with someone infected with measles is enough to catch the infection. Measles can spread rapidly among communities, such as schools, if people have not had at least one dose of the MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella) vaccine.
Symptoms of measles include:
- high fever
- sore, red, watery eyes
- aching and feeling generally unwell
- a blotchy red brown rash, which usually appears after the initial symptoms.
People in certain at-risk groups including babies and small children, pregnant women, and people with weakened immunity are at increased risk of complications if they catch measles. Complications can include chest and ear infections, fits, diarrhoea, encephalitis (infection of the brain) and brain damage. Those who develop complications may need to be admitted to hospital for treatment.
It can take up to 21 days for symptoms of measles to show and an unvaccinated person could have measles without realising and spread the infection.
Anyone who has not had at least one dose of the MMR vaccine and is in contact with a case of measles will need to be excluded from nursery/school/college/work for 21 days after contact with the infected person. Contacts of measles cases should also not be mixing outside their household for that same time.
The best protection against measles is the MMR vaccine which is safe and effective. It’s a combined vaccine which protects against three serious illnesses: Measles, mumps and rubella. The vaccine not only protects them, but also limits the chances of the virus spreading more widely, for example to children who are too young to have the vaccine and to adults who may be more vulnerable to the disease. Children should receive two doses of MMR for maximum protection.
To see if your child is up to date with their MMR vaccines, check your child’s personal child health record (PCHR), known as the red book, or contact your GP practice. Anyone who has not had 2 doses of the MMR vaccine should ask their GP surgery for a vaccination appointment. It is never too late to catch up and the MMR is free on the NHS for all ages.