What is it?

Measles is a highly contagious viral illness.

What to look for

Infection usually begins with 2-4 days of fever, malaise, cough, runny nose and conjunctivivits.

A macropapular rash then develops, often beginning on the face before becoming more generalised.

Complications of disease include pneumonia, encephalitis, brain damage, subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE) and death.

Measles infections during pregnancy can result in miscarriage and prematurity.

How is it transmitted?

It is highly infective and spread by coughing and sneezing.


Measles containing vaccines (measles-mumps-rubella or measles-mumps-rubella-varicella) can protect against disease. Currently on the National Immunisation Program, these are given at 12 months of age (MMR) and 18 months of age (MMRV).

For those born after 1966, 2 doses are required for lifelong protection. One or two doses of free MMR vaccine is available for all adults born during or since 1966 without evidence of receiving two documented doses of valid MMR vaccine or without serological evidence of immunity.


Infants aged from 6 months to less than 11 months can receive a free dose of MMR vaccine prior to overseas travel to highly endemic areas and during outbreaks. This dose is in addition to the scheduled MMR vaccine doses usually administered at ages 12 months (MMR) and 18 months (MMRV). Please discuss with your Doctor or travel specialist.

Post-exposure prophylaxis

If a non-immune individual is exposed to measles, immunisation with MMR or MMRV is recommended to occur within 72 hours of exposure in order to reduce the likelihood of infection (provided immunisation is not a contraindication).

In some instances, administration of Normal Human Immunoglobulin (NHIG) may be indicated [refer to resources].


Author: Rachael McGuire (SAEFVIC Research Nurse, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute)

Reviewed by: Rachael McGuire (SAEFVIC Research Nurse, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute)

Date: August 2020

Materials in this section are updated as new information and vaccines become available. The Melbourne Vaccine Education Centre (MVEC) staff regularly reviews materials for accuracy.

You should not consider the information in this site to be specific, professional medical advice for your personal health or for your family’s personal health. For medical concerns, including decisions about vaccinations, medications and other treatments, you should always consult a healthcare professional.