A young boy standing at the top of a set of stairs, smiling.

This highly contagious viral infection causes a rash and fever and can lead to more serious complications. 

Did you know?

  • Measles is a very contagious virus that can stay in the air or on surfaces for up to two hours.
  • Although cases of measles are low in Australia, cases of measles continue to occur worldwide.
A father happily doing his daughters hair for her.

What is it?

Measles is a highly infectious viral disease caused by Morbillivirus. Due to widespread immunisation, cases of measles are low, However cases still continue to occur in Australia and in many parts of the world it remains common.

If you are not immune to measles, you can catch the disease while travelling to these parts of the world and bring it back into Australia and spread it to others.

What are the symptoms?

Measles symptoms generally occur 10 to 14 days after infection and can include:

  • fever
  • generally feeling unwell
  • cough
  • head cold symptoms
  • sore and red eyes (conjunctivitis)
  • red flat rash that usually starts on the face and neck, and then spreads to the rest of the body
  • red and bluish spots inside the mouth (Koplik’s spots).

Complications of measles can include ear infection, pneumonia (lung swelling), 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 a healthcare professional if you have any concerns about measles infection.

How is it spread?

Measles is highly contagious, one infected person can go on to infect 9 out of 10 people they come into contact with, if those people have not been immunised or previously infected1.

The virus spreads from person to person through the air, such as when an infected person coughs or sneezes. You can also become infected by touching a contaminated surface or object and then touching your nose or mouth.

People infected with measles can be contagious from when they begin to get initial symptoms and for up to four days after the rash has appeared.

Who is at risk?

Those at higher risk include:

  • children
  • adolescents and adults (born during or since 1966)
  • health care workers
  • travellers
  • those who have not been immunised against measles

People at higher risk of potentially fatal complications include those with a chronic illness, children younger than 5 years and adults.

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

Prevention and Treatment options

  • Children and Adults

    Practicing good hygiene can help to protect against illness and the spread of germs:

    • covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze with a tissue or into your upper sleeve or elbow
    • wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
    • if no water is available use an alcohol-based hand-rub

    The risk of measles can be reduced through immunisation.

    Since measles is a viral infection, there is no specific treatment and usually gets better on its own. Rather, 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.

    Please speak to a healthcare professional for more information about measles prevention and treatment options.

    • 14
    • 15
  • Travellers

    It is important to plan ahead and see a healthcare professional at least 6 to 8 weeks before you travel to discuss prevention options and travel health.

References

  1. Measles, Better Health Channel. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/ConditionsAndTreatments/measles (accessed October 2020)

PM-AU-AVX-WCNT-190040 Date of GSK Approval: January 2021