Measles is a highly contagious disease caused by the measles virus.

What is measles?

Measles is a highly contagious disease caused by the measles virus.

How is measles spread?

Measles is spread through air when an infected person coughs or sneezes and can survive in the air for up to two hours. Measles is so contagious that if one person has it, 9 out of 10 people around him will become infected if they are not protected. A person can spread measles from four days before developing the measles rash to four days after the rash starts. That means you can spread measles before knowing you have it.

What are the symptoms of measles?

Measles usually starts with a cough, cold-like symptoms, red eyes and a fever. These symptoms are followed three to four days later by a rash that begins on the face and spreads all over the body. An infected person may also experience Koplik spots in their mouths (small bluish white spots).

What are the risks of measles?

Complications of measles can be serious. One out of 10 cases will have infections of the ear or lungs (pneumonia). Encephalitis (swelling of the brain) occurs in about 1 of every 1,000 cases. Encephalitis can cause seizures, deafness or permanent brain damage. One person in every 3,000 with measles dies of complications. Complications and deaths are most common in infants less than 12 months of age.

How can I prevent getting measles?

The best way to not get measles is to get immunized. The measles vaccine is combined with the mumps and rubella vaccines (MMR) to give protection against all three diseases with one shot. The MMR vaccine is safe. It is much safer to get the vaccine than to get the disease. When you get immunized you help protect others as well.

Who should get the measles vaccine?

  • The measles vaccine is routinely given for free (publicly funded) in two doses as part of the combined measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine to children at 12 months and 4-6 years of age.
  • Older children and teens who HAVE NOT been immunized should also get two doses of the MMR vaccine.
  • Two doses of the vaccine are also recommended for adults born 1970 or later who HAVE NOT had the measles.  Adults born before 1970 are generally assumed to have acquired immunity to measles through natural infection.
  • Older children and adults can receive a free measles vaccine if they have not completed a two dose series and have never had the measles. 
  • Get immunized against measles by making an appointment with your doctor, pharmacist (for those 5 years and older) or at your local public health unit.

Booking an immunization appointment with Public Health

Residents of Fraser East (Mission, Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Agassiz and Hope), call 604-702-4906

Residents in any other area of Fraser Health, call 604-476-7087 

Hours of operation: Monday to Friday (8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.)

Note: When making an appointment with Public Health, you will be offered a text message reminder through the ImmunizeBC text message reminder system. 


For more information about measles and the MMR vaccine, go to: