Measles is a highly infectious viral illness with the potential for serious and life threatening complications. Travel remains an important factor in the international spread of measles.
Measles is spread by airborne or droplet transmission. Initial symptoms can include fever, runny nose, conjunctivitis and cough. A rash usually appears a few days later that starts at the head and spreads to the trunk and limbs over three to four days. Individuals are infectious from the time when the first symptom appears to four days after the appearance of the rash. The incubation period (the time from exposure to the virus to developing symptoms) is about ten days (ranging between seven and 18 days).
Complications of measles infection can occur including otitis media (ear infections), diarrhoea and convulsions (fits). Rarely encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or sub-acute sclerosing pan-encephalitis (chronic late onset brain inflammation leading to death) are reported. The risk of death from the complications of measles infection is age-related; it is high in children younger than one year and in adults.
Measles is endemic in many countries. In particular, countries experiencing or recovering from a conflict or natural disaster are particularly prone to outbreaks of measles. Damage to health infrastructure and health services can interrupt routine immunisation schedules and overcrowding in residential camps greatly increases the risk of infection.
Limitations in national surveillance and reporting systems together with cases not seeking healthcare, and so not being accounted for, result in an underestimate of the number of measles cases globally. WHO information on global surveillance of measles
Some verified outbreak reports for measles, mumps and rubella worldwide are available on our Outbreak Surveillance Database.
Individuals who have never had measles infection or are unvaccinated or incompletely vaccinated, may be at risk from measles when visiting countries reporting cases, especially if staying with friends or family and mixing with the local population.
|Age Range||Dose||Schedule||Reinforcing immunisation|
|Children aged 12 to 13 months*||0.5ml||1 dose||Routinely, at 3 years and 4 months to 5 years (pre-school booster)**|
|Children aged 3 years and 4 months to 5 years||0.5ml||1 dose||No reinforcing dose required if two routine doses given at appropriate intervals|
|Adults||0.5ml||1 dose||If previously unvaccinated, one further dose at least one month apart from first dose|
Additional guidance on measles vaccine for individuals who are travelling or going to reside abroad is available in Immunisation against infectious disease: measles.
Advice on immunisation against measles is also available for those whose immunisation status is uncertain.
In the UK, measles is a notifiable disease. Any case of suspected measles should be notified to the local Health Protection Team.