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Infectious Diseases


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What is measles?

Measles, also known as “red Measles” or Rubeola, is one of the easiest viruses to spread from person to person. It usually occurs in young children however, anyone who is not fully immunized can be infected with measles.

How is it spread?

An infected person can spread measles to others when they cough or sneeze and the droplets enter the nose or mouth of another person. Measles is very easily spread from person to person. Less commonly it can be spread through droplets in the air. The virus spreads so easily that people who are not immune will probably get it when they have close contact with an infected person. The measles virus can also float in the air for up to 2 hours after someone with measles coughs or sneezes indoors. You can spread measles from 4 days before the rash appears to 4 days after the rash appears. 

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of measles begin 7 to 21 days after being near someone who has measles and include fever, runny nose, cough, drowsiness, irritability and red eyes (conjunctivitis). Small white spots (known as "Koplik's spots") appear on the inside of the mouth and throat but not always present.
Then, 3 to 7 days after the start of the symptoms a red, blotchy (maculopapular) rash appears on the face and then progresses down the body.
Complications include middle ear infections, pneumonia, diarrhea or encephalitis (swelling of the brain) and occasionally death in the very young.

How do I know if I have measles?

It is important that you see your doctor if you think you may have measles. Your doctor will order tests that are specific for the measles virus. When making the appointment, let your doctor’s office know that you may have measles so they can take special care to prevent spreading it to other people.

What is the treatment for measles?

There is no medicine to treat measles but you can take medicine to help with the fever and itching.

How do I protect myself and others?

Vaccination is the best way to prevent measles. Measles vaccine in combination with mumps and rubella (MMR) is routinely given soon after a child’s first birthday. A second dose is given as part of a combination vaccine for measles, mumps, rubella and varicella (MMRV) at 4-6 years of age. The vaccine is publicly funded (free) in Ontario. Proof of vaccination against measles, mumps and rubella, or a valid exemption is required by law for all children attending school in Ontario. Anyone with measles or suspected measles will be excluded from school until the fifth day from when the rash started. People who are not fully immunized against measles will be excluded from school if a case of measles is identified in their school. People born before 1970 are considered protected from measles because they were most likely exposed as a child. Speak to your doctor about the vaccine. If you do not have a doctor, call the Vaccine Preventable Disease Team at the health unit.

You can also help prevent the spread of measles by washing your hands after coughing, sneezing, and going to the washroom, and before preparing foods or eating. If you do cough or sneeze, cover your nose and mouth. Do not share cigarettes or drink from the same glass, water bottle or straw as others.

Is there anything special I need to know about measles?

If you have measles, it is important that you stay home and avoid contact with others until the fifth day from when the rash started. This is the time you are most infectious to other people.

For data on the incidence of Measles in Simcoe Muskoka and Ontario, please visit the Measles page on the health unit’s HealthSTATS site


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