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Measles is a highly infectious viral disease that occurs throughout the world, it is transmitted by sneezing, coughing or direct contact with respiratory secretions.

Measles continues to spread across Europe because the vaccination coverage in many countries is inadequate.

The Illness

Measles usually starts with flu-like symptoms approximately 10 days after becoming infected. Such symptoms may include fever, muscle aches, cough, redness and inflamation of the eyes. These symptoms are typically followed a few days later by the measles rash, a red-brown blotchy rash that usually starts on the head or upper neck, before spreading outwards to the rest of the body.

For most people, the illness lasts around 7 to 10 days in total. However, complications can occur and measles continues to be one of the leading causes of death among young children even though a safe and cost-effective vaccine is available.


There is no specific treatment available.

Recommendations for Travellers

This disease is still common in much of Asia, Africa, the Indian sub-continent and South America. More recently there have been outbreaks of measles in many developed countries such as the Australia, US, Canada, New Zealand and  numerous European countries including the UK. The risk is greater when living or working with local people or travelling for large gatherings, for example sporting and music events.

The two vaccines that protect against measles are combined with mumps and rubella (MMR). MMR vaccine is usually given to children as part of the national childhood schedule, in infancy and prior to starting school. Two doses of vaccine give long-lasting protection against all three diseases.

Individuals should check with their GP to ensure that they have received two doses of MMR vaccination prior to travel particularly to areas where the risk of measles is high. Previous  infection with measles, mumps or rubella provides lifelong immunity against that particular disease.

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