How do you get measles?

Measles is usually spread when a person breathes in the measles virus that has been coughed or sneezed into the air by an infectious person.

The measles virus has a short survival time in the air and on objects and surfaces (less than 2 hours) and is inactivated quickly by sunlight and heat.

People with measles are usually infectious from just before the symptoms begin (2 to 4 days) until 4 days after the rash appears.

Who is at risk of measles?

Anyone who hasn’t been vaccinated that comes into contact with the measles virus is at risk of infection.

Pregnant women and their babies

If a pregnant woman is infected with measles, there is an increased risk of complications including miscarriage, early labour and stillbirth.

Pregnant women can’t have the measles vaccine during pregnancy so to protect her baby and herself, it is important for women to get vaccinated against measles at least 4 weeks before trying to get pregnant.

What are the signs and symptoms?

The time from exposure to becoming sick is usually about 10 days. The rash usually appears around 14 days after exposure.

The first symptoms of measles are:

  • fever
  • tiredness
  • runny nose
  • cough
  • sore red eyes.

These symptoms usually last for a few days before a red blotchy rash appears. The rash starts on the face for 1 to 2 days and spreads down to the body. The rash will last for 4 to 7 days.


Up to one-third of people infected with measles will experience a complication. This can include ear infections, diarrhoea and pneumonia, and may require hospitalisation. About 1 in every 1000 people with measles develops encephalitis (swelling of the brain).

Pregnant women

Measles can have serious complications for pregnant women and their babies such as:

  • miscarriage
  • early labour
  • stillbirth

Where to get help