Check with your doctor whether you and your family have been fully immunised against measles – especially if you are travelling overseas or were born after 1968.

Title: 2014 measles

Title: Dr Darren Hunt, Director of Public Health – Ministry of Health

Dr Darren Hunt: Measles is a highly infectious virus.

If you haven’t been immunised you can catch it quite easily from someone else who has measles just by being in the same room.

Measles is also very serious and can be life threatening.

It can lead to pneumonia and inflammation of the brain and around 1 in 5 people this year who have had measles have needed hospital treatment.

And the sort of things you need to look out for in terms of symptoms in the first few days, are a cough, itchy red eyes, runny nose and also a fever and you can get a rash that starts from your face and leads down to your body.

[Photos show a child with itchy red eyes, and one with the characteristic measles spots over their face.]

Now if you get these sorts of measles symptoms you really need to get medical advice.

Call Healthline or your GP or nurse.

Title: Healthline – 0800 611 116: Free health advice when you need it

Dr Darren Hunt: And it’s really important to call first so that you can be seen separately away from others so that they don’t catch it from you.

While measles is highly infectious, it’s also very easy to prevent it. Immunisation against measles is free for those who need it, so you should talk to your GP or nurse about whether you have been immunised before.

And if you’re in doubt there’s no harm in having another one.

And it’s also really important before you travel so you don’t bring measles back into the country. And measles immunisation will not only protect you, your family and your community, it’ll also mean that you don’t get stuck at home for 2 weeks.

Because if you haven’t been immunised and you come in contact with someone who has had measles, then you need to stay at home for 2 weeks to make sure you don’t pass the virus onto others.

So if in I doubt, talk to your GP or nurse and get immunised.

Title: Don’t assume you’re immune to measles. To get immunised now, talk to your family doctor or nurse. It’s free!

Title: Healthline – 0800 611 116: Free health advice when you need it.


  • Measles is highly contagious – and easily preventable.
  • It affects both children and adults.
  • 2 doses of the measles vaccine is all you need to protect yourself, your family and your community.
  • Vaccination is particularly important if you are planning to travel anywhere overseas – to protect yourself and to help prevent outbreaks in New Zealand.

How is measles spread?

Measles is a highly infectious virus that spreads easily from person to person through the air, via breathing, coughing and sneezing. It affects both children and adults.

People with measles are infectious 5 days before and until 5 days after the rash appears.

People should stay away from work, childcare and school for 5 days after the appearance of rash. Non-immune contacts of a case may also be excluded.

Measles complications

Measles can be life threatening: about 1 in 10 people with measles will need hospital treatment.

Measles can also lead to other complications, including:

  • ear infections (which can cause permanent hearing loss)
  • diarrhoea
  • pneumonia
  • seizures
  • swelling of the brain – this is rare, but can cause permanent brain damage or death.

Up to 30% of people with measles will develop complications – usually children under five and adults over the age of 20.

Measles during pregnancy increases the risk of miscarriage, premature labour and low birth-weight babies.


Childhood Immunsation booklet.
Childhood Immunisation
Available from HealthEd.


The illness starts 7–18 days after you’ve been exposed. If you have measles, you’ll get the following symptoms.

First symptoms

  • A fever
  • A cough
  • A runny nose
  • Sore and watery ‘pink’ eyes
  • Sometimes small white spots on the back inner cheek of your mouth.

Day 3–7 of illness

  • A blotchy rash which tends to start on your face, behind the ears, before moving over your head and down your body. The rash lasts for up to a week.

Warning: Some of these photos are quite graphic.

Pictures courtesy of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Click on the pictures to enlarge them.


What to do if you or a family member has symptoms

If you detect any of these symptoms, see your family doctor or call Healthline on 0800 611 116, for advice as soon as possible.

It’s important to call before visiting your doctor because measles is easily passed on from one person to another. Phoning ahead helps ensure steps are taken to avoid you spreading measles in the waiting room.

You should also stay away from work, school or public places, to help prevent putting other people at risk. This also applies if you or a family member aren’t fully immunised and may have been in contact with someone with measles.


Get immunised

The best protection against measles is the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine. You need 2 doses of measles-containing vaccine to be fully immunised.

If you were born after December 1968 check your vaccination status, as you may not be fully immunised. If you are not sure, talk to your doctor.

The vaccines are free for children and adults who have not previously had 2 recorded doses of measles-containing vaccine.

Vaccination is particularly important if you are planning to travel anywhere overseas – to protect yourself and to help prevent outbreaks in New Zealand.

Further immunisation information

Get up to date with your immunisations
It’s never too late to get up to date with your immunisations. By being immunised, you will not only be protecting yourself and your family – you’ll also stop the disease spreading in your community.
  • Young children are usually vaccinated at 15 months and 4 years of age.
  • 2 doses are necessary to give the best protection.
  • In an outbreak or other urgent situation, the first scheduled dose can be given from 12 months of age, with the second scheduled dose able to be given as early as 1 month after the first.
  • In an outbreak, an additional dose of measles vaccine can be given from 6 months of age. Babies immunised before they are 12 months old will still need 2 doses according to the schedule (at 15 months and 4 years).
  • Immunisation (with 2 measles vaccinations) is also very important for older children and adults.

For more information about the vaccine, read the HealthEd resource Childhood Immunisation.

Who shouldn’t have the vaccine?

You shouldn’t get immunised against measles if you:

  • are pregnant
  • have a severe allergy or immunosuppressive condition.

If you think you have been exposed to measles and are unable to have the vaccine, ask your doctor for advice.

In this section

  • Frequently asked questions on measles, including what to do if you suspect you or a family member has measles and information on the MMR vaccine. Read more
  • Stories from parents whose children became sick with measles during the 2011 outbreak, and from medical officers of health who dealt with the outbreak. Read more
  • Measles has a more than 50% death rate for New Zealand children with low immunity, such as those receiving cancer treatment. To protect these children, it’s important we and our families are immunised so that we cannot spread the illness. Read more
Back to top