Measles

Highly infectious and can spread through the air

Measles

How is it spread?

Measles is highly infectious and spread through the air when someone who is infected coughs or sneezes. You don’t have to be in close contact with someone to contract the infection. You could spend just a few minutes in the same room as someone and get it, though, the closer the contact, the higher the risk.

This virus can survive in closed areas (ie a bathroom) for up to two

hours after an infected person with measles was there. So people who are in the same air space during this two hour period can become infected.

It can also be spread through sharing food, drinks or cigarettes or kissing a person with measles.

An infected person can spread measles before knowing they have been infected.

People are infectious to others from 4 days before to 4 days after the onset of rash.

Who is at risk?

People who are not immunized are most at risk.

Children in B.C. born in or after 1994 routinely receive two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR), one at 12 months, then again before they start kindergarten. These individuals, if they are up to date with all of their immunizations, should be protected against measles.

If you were born before 1994, or grew up outside of B.C., you may have received only one dose of the vaccine and require a second dose.

If you were born before 1970, you are likely to be immune to measles. However, if you aren’t sure if you ever had the infection, an MMR vaccine is safe and recommended.

Vaccinations are recommended to any adult or child over one year of age who has uncertain immunization or disease history.

Anyone who has ever had the infection does not need to be immunized.

What are the symptoms?

  • fever
  • red eyes, which may be sensitive to light
  • cough
  • a runny nose
  • rash

How is it treated?

Measles is a serious illness with no specific treatment, but most people recover within a week or two.

If you have measles:

  • Drink plenty of fluids such as water, juice and soup, especially if you have a fever
  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Stay away from other people as much as you can so that you don't spread the disease.
  • If your child has measles, keep him or her out of school and activities until at least 4 days after the rash first appeared. Keep your child out longer if he or she is not feeling well.
  • Your doctor may suggest vitamin A supplements for your child.

What should I do if I think I have the measles?

If you have a fever and rash you should isolate yourself by staying home and visit your doctor. Before going, call your doctor’s office so that they can take precautions to protect other patients.

If you think you have measles, please call VCH Public Health at 1-855-675-3900 during regular business hours, and ask for the nurse on call, to report your illness.

Where can I get vaccinated?

The measles vaccination is available free of charge at VCH pubic health units. You can also get vaccinated at some physician offices and pharmacies, where those without BC health care coverage may be charged a fee.

Find a location to be vaccinated: