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Measles is a highly contagious disease caused by the measles virus. Complications and death can result from a measles infection, most commonly in infants less than 12 months old and in adults.

Since the introduction of the measles vaccine, rates of measles infections have dropped greatly.

For more information about cases of measles in British Columbia see the most recent Annual Summary of Reportable Diseases or Vaccine Preventable Disease Reports.

Information for Health Professionals

Measles, caused by a virus, is the most contagious vaccine-preventable disease.

  • Fever, cough, runny nose, and watery inflamed eyes
  • In the mouth - small red spots with white or bluish white centres
  • Dusky red, blotchy rash that begins on the face and spreads all over the body
  • Rash begins on 3rd to 7th day of illness and lasts 4 to 7 days
  • The measles virus is spread through the air by droplets that have been coughed, sneezed, or breathed by an infected person.
  • The measles virus can survive in small droplets in the air for several hours.
  • The measles virus is also spread through direct contact with nose and throat secretions of an infected person.
  • One out of 10 cases will have ear infections or pneumonia
  • Measles encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) occurs in about 1 of every 1,000 cases and may result in permanent brain damage
  • Death from respiratory and neurologic complications occurs in one out of 3,000 cases.

Measles is diagnosed by the detection of measles virus from an appropriate sample (nasopharyngeal or throat swab and urine) and a blood test.


Rest and treating the fever (if there is one).

  • Immunization with the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine is the best way to prevent measles.
  • All contacts of a measles case that have not had measles disease or 2 doses of measles vaccine in the past should receive measles vaccine within 72 hours of last exposure to the infected person.
  • Immune globulin (a blood product containing measles antibodies) is available to prevent measles disease in people who are exposed to a case of measles but who are unable to be immunized with MMR for any reason. 
  • Wash hands well, especially after coughing and sneezing and before preparing foods or eating.
  • Don't share food, drinks, utensils, etc.
SOURCE: Measles ( )
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