Measles – how to recognise

Aotearoa is at a high risk of a measles outbreak this summer.  Measles (Te mate karawaka) is highly contagious and spreads easily among people who are not immunised.

It can cause serious problems, including brain swelling, chest infections, or death. Symptoms can start 7 to 18 days after you are exposed to the virus, usually within 10 days.

Here’s how to recognise it:

The first few days:

  • Fever (temperature above 38°C)
  • Runny nose (or blocked nose)
  • Cough
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sore and watery pink eyes
  • You may also get white spots inside your mouth.

3 to 7 days after the first symptoms

  • The rash starts to develop on your head or face, often at your hairline or behind your ears, and then spreads to your body and then to your arms and legs.
  • The rash is red or dark pink. The spots are blotchy and join together. It is not usually itchy, and can last for a week or more.
  • You usually feel most unwell a day or two after the appearance of the rash.
  • The rash will fade after about a week, leaving a slight mark on the skin, but this will not be permanent. You are no longer at risk of passing on measles to others 4 days after you developed your rash.

If you think you may have measles, stay at home, and call your healthcare provider or Healthline on 0800 611 116 for more advice.  

The best protection against measles is two doses of the free MMR vaccine – this provides lifelong protection in 99% of people. 

Learn more about measles and vaccination on our website:

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