What is Measles?

Measles is a highly contagious disease caused by the measles virus. Though measles is no longer endemic in Canada, outbreaks can happen when susceptible (e.g. unvaccinated) individuals travel to countries where measles is circulating and then bring back the infection with them.

In Grey-Bruce, the last confirmed case of measles was reported in 1996.


What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of measles generally start 7 to 21 days after exposure to the virus. Usually, people infected with measles experience flu-like symptoms to start, with fever, cough, red eyes (conjunctivitis) and runny nose (coryza), progressing to rash characterized by flat, red spots, beginning on the face and spreading down the trunk, arms and legs. Koplick Spots (small, white spots inside of the mouth) may also appear in the later part of the illness.

Measles can be a serious infection with severe complications, like respiratory failure, encephalitis, blindness, deafness, permanent neurological damage, and even death.

If you think you have measles, you should isolate immediately. Always call the hospital or healthcare facility before seeking care as they will have special instructions for you to follow to reduce the risk of passing the infection to others.


How is it spread?

Measles is one of the most highly transmissible diseases. It is spread from person to person through the air when an infected person breathes, coughs, sneezes, or talks. It may also spread through directly contacting surfaces contaminated with the measles virus.

People with measles can be infectious for one day before they even begin showing symptoms and up to 4 days after their rash begins. The measles virus can live in the air and on surfaces for up to two hours, meaning people who breathe the air or are in contact with contaminated surfaces are at risk of being exposed to the virus even after an infectious person has left the area.


How is measles tested and treated?

Measles testing may include a nose or throat swab, bloodwork, urine testing, or a combination of all of these.

There is no specific treatment for measles – rather, medical management would be supportive, focused on managing symptoms and complications.


How can infections be prevented?

Measles vaccination is extremely effective at preventing illness. Those without a history of vaccination or immunity through past infection may be asked to isolate for up to 21 days if they are exposed to the virus.

Those born before 1970 are generally assumed to have natural immunity due to likelihood of past history of infection. For those born after 1970, two doses of measles-containing vaccine received after a person’s first birthday is considered protected.

Children are usually vaccinated just after their first birthday, and again between the ages of 4 and 6. If you are unsure about your vaccination status, you can check ICON, contact the Health Unit where you would have received your immunizations, or talk with your doctor. For those who are still unsure if they are immune or not, a blood test may be ordered, or they may consider talking with their doctor about whether they should receive a dose of vaccine.

Additional information on measles vaccination can be found:

Additional information on measles can be found here:

Measles (Rubeola) | CDC

Measles: Symptoms and treatment -



Public Health Ontario’s document Measles for Healthcare Providers offers a summary of key information for healthcare providers, including information on immunizations, clinical presentation and diagnosis, testing and specimen transport, patient and contact counselling, and infection prevention and control measures.

Other helpful information and resources include:


Share this page