If you have not been vaccinated and are in close contact with someone who has measles, there is a 90% chance you will catch the disease.1
How do people catch this disease?
Measles is one of the most contagious diseases in the world. Transmission occurs by breathing in tiny droplets spread by the coughs and sneezes of people infected with the measles virus. The virus survives for a few hours on surfaces and so can also be picked up on the hands and then carried to the mouth and nose.1,3
Which countries are affected?
Measles is rare in countries with effective children vaccination programs. But measles cases are increasing in some areas which used to have low rates (see map).2
This is because some parents are reluctant to have their children vaccinated due to fears about vaccination, even though the evidence does not support these concerns.
What are the symptoms?
Coughs, sneezes and a runny nose, sore eyes, fever and patchy red rash, usually spreading from the head and neck to the rest of the body.1,3
How serious is the disease?
Measles severely weakens the immune system for about six weeks and therefore making it easier for other pathogens to enter the body. The complication rate for measles is about 20%, with complications ranging from bronchitis and pneumonia to a potentially life-threatening inflammation of the brain (encephalitis). A rare but fatal late complication (6-8 years after infection) is subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE), which leads to neuronal deficits and ultimately death.1,3
Can I reduce the chances of catching the disease?
You can take the following precautions to help reduce your risk of infection: