Common questions about measles

What is measles?

Measles is a highly contagious virus that can cause serious health problems, such as brain swelling (encephalitis), seizures, hearing loss or even death.

In 1980, before widespread vaccination, measles caused an estimated 2.6 million deaths each year worldwide. For every 1,000 people who get measles in a developed country like Canada, one or two people will die.

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What causes measles?

Measles is caused by a virus. Measles is an extremely contagious disease, spread easily through the air. In fact, your child can get measles just by passing through a room/location where an infected person was up to two hours before! The infected person does not still need to be there to put your child at risk of disease. Your child also does not need to be in direct contact with an infected person to be at risk.

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Is my child at risk from measles?

Without immunization, your child is at risk for measles. Two doses of the measles vaccine, given at the appropriate ages and stages (as per the routine childhood immunization schedule) are required to be protected against measles.

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What can happen to my child if he or she gets measles?

Measles can cause very serious illness. In addition to a fever, rash and other symptoms, your child could get brain swelling (encephalitis) or experience seizures, hearing loss or even death. In fact, about one in 10 children will get infections of the middle ear or lungs (pneumonia). About one in 1000 children will get an infection of the brain (encephalitis) which can lead to seizures, deafness or brain damage.

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What should I do if I think my child has been exposed to measles?

If you think your child has been exposed to measles, and your child has NOT been fully immunized (with two doses of measles vaccine), dial 811 for Health Link before visiting any healthcare provider or facility. The registered nurse who answers your call will guide you on the appropriate next steps for your child.

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What are the symptoms of measles?

Symptoms of measles are:

  • fever 38.3 C or higher; and
  • cough, runny nose or red eyes; and
  • red blotchy rash appearing three to seven days after fever starts, beginning behind the ears and on the face and spreading down to the body and then to the arms and legs

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What should I do if my child has the symptoms of measles?

If your child is showing symptoms of measles, keep your child at home, avoid contact with others, and call Health Link Alberta (1-866-408-5465) before visiting any healthcare facility or provider.

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How long is my child contagious?

If your child has measles, your child will be considered contagious from one day before showing any symptoms (which is usually about four to seven days before the rash appears) until four days after the appearance of the rash.

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Is there a treatment or cure for measles?

There is no cure for measles.

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What is the name of the immunization that protects my child against measles?

The MMRV vaccine will prompt your child’s immune system to build antibodies – or ”armour” – that will protect your child from measles, mumps, rubella and varicella (chicken pox).

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At what age should my child be immunized against measles?

To be protected against measles, your child must receive two doses of the measles vaccine, at the ages and stages recommended in the routine schedule. Your child is recommended to receive MMRV at 12 months of age, and again between four and six years of age. Without both doses of vaccine, your child is not fully protected from – or “armed against” – the measles disease.

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Are there side effects to the measles vaccine?

The side effects your child may have after immunization depend on which vaccine they received. To find this information, click on the vaccine name in the Routine Immunization Schedule or from the list of Vaccine Information Sheets.

For tips on managing side effects after immunization, click here.

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Does the measles vaccine cause autism?

No, vaccines do not cause autism. Research has found no link between vaccine and autism. You may have heard about Andrew Wakefield, a British surgeon who suggested a link between autism and vaccine. What you may not have heard is that the research he published was found to be false, and Wakefield had his medical licence taken away because of this. In January 2010, Britain’s statutory tribunal of the General Medical Council found Wakefield guilty of four counts of dishonesty and 12 counts involving the abuse of developmentally challenged children, as it pertained to his false research on autism.

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Is this disease called any other names?

Occasionally you might see measles called “Rubeola."

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More measles questions? More answers here.