Measles Disease

This page has general information about the Measles Disease. Visit our Measles and your child web page for parent question & answers.

Dr. Hamidah Meghani, Halton Region’s Medical Officer of Health, talks about measles.
Courtesy of CogecoTV

January 20, 2015

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda and Measles

Read what Dr. Hamidah Meghani, Halton Region's Medical Officer of Health, writes about immunization in her blog.

Page Contents

What is measles (red measles, rubeola)?

  • Measles is a very easily spread infection of the lungs (respiratory system) caused by a virus.
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What are the symptoms of measles?

  • Measles symptoms appear in 2 stages:
    1. Those infected have:
      • cough
      • runny nose
      • red and watery eyes that are sensitive to light
      • slight fever
    2. The second stage begins after 3-7 days: 
      • fever increases, usually becoming very high (39.4ºC or 103-105ºF)
      • small, white spots appear on the inside of the mouth (Koplik spots)
      • red rash then develops, first on the face and then moving down the body, arms and legs
  • These symptoms last approximately 5 days with the rash clearing on the face first and then the rest of the body.
  • Most people are sick for up to 10 days and then recover completely.
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      What are the complications of measles?

      • Measles can lead to:
        • ear infections
        • lung infections (pneumonia)
        • infection of the brain (encephalitis)
        • death
      • Pregnant women can have premature delivery and miscarriages.
        • Measles does not cause birth defects.
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      How can I get measles?

      • Measles is easily spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes, spreading droplets that contain the virus into the air.
        • Less commonly, particles can stay in the air for long periods of time and infect others in the same room.
      • Measles is one of the easiest viruses to spread from person to person.

      Did you know?

      Measles is rarely seen in Canada now due to high vaccination rates.

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      When is someone with measles contagious?

      • 4 days before - 4 days after the rash appears.
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      Who is at risk of getting measles?

      • Infants under the age of 1 are at greatest risk because the measles vaccine is given at 1 year of age or older.
      • People born on or after January 1, 1970 who are not vaccinated and have never had a measles infection are at risk.
        • People born before 1970 have likely developed immunity to the virus and may be protected.
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      If I have been in contact with someone who had measles, how long before I can get symptoms?

      • Usually 10 days after contact with an infected individual
        • It can range from 7-21 days.
      • Rash usually appears 10-14 days after exposure.
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      What should I do, if I have symptoms of measles?

      • Call your health care provider before visiting his/her office.
        • Notify him/her about your symptoms.
      • It is important that infection control measures are put into place to prevent others from getting sick.
      • You may be asked to visit the office when there are no other patients waiting and you may be asked to wear a mask.
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      Can I get measles more than once?

      • No.
      • Once someone has had measles, they are protected for life.
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      How is measles diagnosed?

      • With laboratory tests that may include:
        • swab from inside your nose
        • urine specimen
        • blood sample
      • Lab tests in combination with your symptoms can be used to diagnose measles. Consult with your health care provider.
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      How is measles treated?

      • There is no specific treatment.
      • Supportive care in hospital may be needed for severe infections, but most people can recover from home.
      • If you think you have measles, it is important to speak to a doctor before visiting the doctor’s office so that the infection is not passed to others.
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