Measles is a highly infectious viral illness, spread by air borne transmission which is easily passed on from person to person. In some cases, it can be fatal or resulting in very serious life-long complications. While it is most common in young people, anyone who has not been vaccinated or has not had measles or the measles vaccine before is at risk of infection.
Due to a fall in the number of children receiving the MMR vaccine, the UK has now lost its Measles-free status, as the frequency of outbreaks has increased in recent years. It is now thought that one in seven 5-year olds are not up to date with routine immunisations.
The Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine offers immunity against all three of these diseases. A full course of the MMR vaccination requires two doses, with at least four weeks between each dose. Adults and older children who did not receive MMR as part of the childhood vaccination programme can still be vaccinated at any age.
Countries at risk
Measles is prevalent all around the world and can be found in Asia, Africa, the Indian sub-continent and South America. Many developed countries have experienced outbreaks in recent years, including Australia, the US, Canada, New Zealand and numerous European countries, such as France, Germany and the UK.
The risk of infection increases when living or working with non-immune local people or if you attend a large gathering, for instance a sporting event or music festival, due to the highly contagious nature of the virus. The best way to protect yourself is to ensure you have received the MMR vaccine preferably a month before travelling.
Signs and Symptoms
It takes around 10 days after infection for symptoms of Measles to develop, and these may include:
- Cold like symptoms such as a runny nose, sneezing and a cough
- High temperature or fever
- Muscle aches
- Sore, red, watery, inflamed eyes that may be sensitive to light
- Loss of appetite
- Tiredness, irritability and general lack of energy
- Small, greyish white spots in the mouth
2-4 days after these initial symptoms, a red-brown blotchy rash typically appears, which usually fades after about a week.