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Check with your doctor whether you and your family have been fully immunised against measles – especially if you were born after December 1968 as you may not have been fully immunised against measles.
View a comprehensive list of Frequently asked questions about measles.
- Measles is highly contagious – and easily preventable.
- It affects both children and adults.
- Two doses of the measles vaccine is all you need to protect yourself, your family and your community.
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.
If you have measles, you’re contagious from just before symptoms begin to around four days after the rash appears.
Measles can be life threatening: about one 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)
- encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) – this is rare, but can cause permanent brain damage or death.
Up to 30 percent 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.
The illness usually starts 10–12 days after you’ve been exposed. If you have measles, you’ll get:
- a fever
- a runny nose
- sore and watery ‘pink’ eyes
- sometimes small white spots on the back inner cheek of your mouth.
A rash usually starts on the third-to-seventh day of the illness. This tends to start on the face, behind the ears, before moving over the head and down the 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.
Measles isn’t easy to treat. The best way to protect yourself and your family against measles is immunisation.
Measles is covered by the New Zealand Immunisation Schedule. The vaccine used is the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine (M-M-R® II).
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 four years of age.
- Two doses are necessary to give the best protection.
- The measles vaccine can sometimes be given from 12 months of age (eg, during a measles outbreak).
- Immunisation is also very important for older children and adults.
If you or your children haven’t been fully immunised, you can protect yourselves by being immunised.
- All NZ residents born from 1 January 1969 who haven’t had two doses of measles vaccine in the past are eligible for free measles vaccinations.
- If you’re born from 1 January 1969 and aren’t sure whether you’ve been vaccinated, check with your family doctor or practice nurse.
- If you were born before 1969, it’s likely that you’ve been exposed already – you’re considered to be immune.
For more information about the vaccine, read the HealthEd resource Childhood Immunisation.
Who shouldn’t have the vaccine?
You shouldn’t get immunised 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
- While measles can be a dangerous illness with long-term side effects for any child, it has a more than 50 percent death rate for New Zealand children with low immunity, such as those receiving cancer treatment. The most important thing we can do to protect these children is to make sure that we and our children are immunised against measles, so that we cannot spread the illness. Read more
Immunisation: Making a choice for your children
A Ministry of Health publication.
Immunisation: Making a Choice for Your Children video
Felicity Lyme talks about what having measles is like.
Immunisation Advisory Centre
Freephone 0800 IMMUNE
- Measles – includes factsheets for contacts and people at high risk.
Developed by the Starship Foundation and the Paediatric Society of New Zealand.