Measles

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Did you know?

Measles is highly contagious. You can catch measles just by being in a room where a person with measles has been. 

The disease

  • Measles, also known as red measles, causes fever, rash, cold-like symptoms and red, inflamed eyes that can be sensitive to light.
  • Measles is very contagious and spreads easily. When an infected person breathes, coughs, or sneezes, the virus spreads through the air. The measles virus can survive in small droplets in the air for several hours.
  • It can lead to infections of the ear or lungs (pneumonia).
  • More serious complications, occurring in 1 person in 1,000, include encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain. This can lead to seizures, deafness or permanent brain damage.
  • About one person in 3,000 with measles can die from complications.
  • If you have more questions about measles and the MMR vaccine, you can go to HealthLinkBC or call 8-1-1. Any time of the day or night, every day of the year HealthLinkBC provides access to non-emergency health information and advice in British Columbia. 

The vaccine

The measles vaccine is given as the combined measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine

  • Children are routinely given two doses of the MMR vaccine. The first dose is given at 12 months and the second dose is given at 4-6 years of age. Children 4 - 12 years of age who also need protection against chickenpox (varicella) can get their second dose as the combined measles, mumps, rubella and varicella (MMRV) vaccine.
  • Older children and teens who have not been immunized should also get two doses of the MMR vaccine.
  • Those born in 1970 or later with documentation of two doses of a measles-containing vaccine are considered immune and no booster doses are recommended.

Immunization Records

Summary of measles-containing vaccine programs in BC:

  • 1969-Measles vaccine recommended for infants at 12 months of age, preschool, and susceptible school children
  • 1981-One dose of MMR vaccine  provided for all children 12 months of age and older
  • 1986-One dose of MMR vaccine catch-up program for all children from Kindergarten to grade 12
  • 1996-A second dose of MMR vaccine introduced at 18 months as part of the routine schedule
  • 1996-A measles, rubella (MR) vaccine provided to all children 19 months of age and older (toddlers, preschool children, elementary, secondary, and post-secondary students) in a province-wide campaign. The second dose was for measles protection. Records for this MR vaccine campaign were provided to parents only and not retained by health units.

Tips for locating immunization records

Without a record of immunization (or proof of immunity to a disease), a person is considered unimmunized and unprotected and should generally be vaccinated (or revaccinated) to ensure protection. It is safe to repeat vaccines. 

Infants under 12 months of age

  • MMR vaccine is not recommended for infants under 12 months of age.
  • Infants under 12 months of age may not respond to the measles component of the vaccine due to the presence of antibodies received from their mother during pregnancy.
  • MMR vaccine is only recommended for infants 6 – 11 months of age if travelling overseas to areas with ongoing measles outbreaks. Such infants would still require 2 doses of MMR vaccine after 12 months of age. To receive vaccines related to travel, contact a travel health clinic.

Children under 4 years of age with one dose of MMR vaccine

  • For children under 4 years of age who have received one dose of MMR vaccine, the second dose is given at 4 – 6 years of age.
  • It is not routinely recommended to receive the second dose of MMR vaccine earlier (i.e., before 4 years of age).
  • However, if your child is younger than 4 years of age and travelling overseas to an area with high rates of measles, an early second dose is recommended prior to travel. This dose can be given as early as 4 weeks after the first dose. To receive vaccines related to travel, contact a travel health clinic.

Adults

  • For all individuals born after January 1, 1970, two doses of measles-containing vaccine (given as MMR in Canada) are recommended. Individuals born in 1970 or later with documentation of two doses of a measles-containing vaccine are considered immune and no booster doses are recommended.
  • Individuals born before 1970 are generally assumed to have acquired immunity to measles from natural infection, and therefore MMR vaccine is not recommended for these individuals.
  • Health care workers born between 1957 and 1969 are recommended to have two doses of MMR vaccine. 

Travellers

  • Measles travel health notices are currently posted for many countries throughout the world. Ensure that you and your loved ones are protected against measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases prior to travel.
  • Find out which vaccines may be recommended or required for your destination here. Travel vaccines are available from travel health clinics, most pharmacies, and some doctors’ offices in BC.
  • Read more about travel vaccines here.

Where to get the vaccine

  • In BC, many health professions are authorized to immunize including nurses, nurse practitioners, pharmacists, physicians and naturopathic doctors. 
  • Contact the clinic of your choice to inquire if they provide immunizations. In BC, all health units provide immunizations. Use the health unit finder.
  • Please note:
    • some health care providers in BC may charge a fee with immunization services.
    • some health care providers in BC do not give immunizations to children under 5 years of age.

Questions?

  • If you have more questions about measles and the MMR vaccine, you can go to HealthLinkBC or call 8-1-1. Any time of the day or night, every day of the year HealthLinkBC provides access to non-emergency health information and advice in British Columbia. 
  • Questions about immunization? Ask Us.

 

Date last updated: 
Friday, May 31, 2019
Date last reviewed: 
Wednesday, Feb 20, 2019