This page provides information about measles including how it is spread, its symptoms, and how to get a vaccine.

What is it and what does it look like?

  • Measles is a very infectious and potentially serious viral illness.
  • It starts with a high fever and respiratory symptoms with one or more of the following:  runny nose, cough, red eyes and small white spots inside the mouth. 
  • Three or 4 days after catching measles a red blotchy rash appears, starting on the neck and face, then spreading over the entire body. 
  • The rash is not itchy and fades during the first week. A person with measles looks and feels unwell and about 10% need hospital admission.

Am I at risk?

You are considered susceptible if:

  • You have not received the correct number of measles vaccines for your age – in New Zealand, this is given in the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine, after your first birthday (15 months) and again when you're four-years-old.
  • You've never had measles before (as diagnosed by your doctor).
  • You've not had immunity shown on a blood test.
  • You are immune-suppressed.

What should I do?

  • See your doctor should you have symptoms as described above.
  • If you also have a rash you should ideally ring ahead so that appropriate isolation procedures can be arranged for your arrival at the medical practice rooms.
  • In some cases, a simple phone call or an email might be all you need to talk about your risk and your immunity.

How is it treated?

  • There is no specific treatment for the infection once contracted but it is preventable through vaccination which is usually initiated in childhood.
  • Although we have relatively high levels of immunity in New Zealand through vaccination, levels of protection can fall with time.
  • Global levels of vaccination vary so travellers can be at risk.

More information

For detailed information, visit the Ministry of Health website.