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Measles is the most highly infectious viral illness. It is passed easily from person to person through direct contact with an infected person, or through the air. When an infected person coughs or sneezes the droplets enter the air around them where these droplets could enter others mouth or nose.


The symptoms for Measles will normally start 10 to 12 days after exposure and will last between 4 to 7 days. The first sign of a person being infected with Measles is having cold-like symptoms:

  • a high temperature or fever
  • a runny or blocked nose 
  • sneezing
  • a cough
  • red, sore, watery eyes
  • small white spots inside the cheeks

After several days a rash will appear, usually on the face and upper neck, over the next few days the rash will then spread over the whole body. The spots are sometimes raised and join together to form blotchy patches.

In most cases Measles causes no long-term implications for the individual. For some people catching Measles can have serious complications, especially if it spreads to the lungs or brain. In rarer circumstances for those who are at higher risk this could lead to the development of Pneumonia, Meningitis, blindness, or seizures. 

Those who are at a higher risk include:

  • children under the age of 5
  • pregnant women, or women who are planning pregnancy
  • those who are immunocompromised (weakened immune system)  
  • people about to start college or university
  • people planning on travelling abroad
  • people who are frontline health and social care staff
  • people born between 1970 and 1979, as they may have only been vaccinated against Measles
  • people born between 1980 and 1990, as they may have only been vaccinated against Mumps

If an adult or child believes they may have Measles or are a close contact with someone who has Measles, they should call their local GP or NHS 111 for advice.

You should take immediate action and call 999 or go to A&E if an adult or child:

  • has a shortness of breath
  • a high temperature that does not come down after taking paracetamol or ibuprofen
  • has confusion
  • starts to have seizures

How to treat

A person with Measles will be contagious from the onset of symptoms to day 4. Symptoms can be relieved by:

  • resting
  • drinking plenty of fluids, such as water
  • taking regular pain relief such as paracetamol or ibuprofen
  • use cotton wool soaked in warm water to remove any crusts from eyes


Given the high risk of secondary infection it is advised that people with Measles should remain at home and not attend work, school or nursery until they fully recover to prevent further spreading of illness. 

Practicing good hygiene helps prevent spreading Measles to others, this includes:

  • washing hands often using soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub
  • avoiding touching the eyes, nose or mouth
  • regularly cleaning surfaces and objects that could become contaminated using an anti-bacterial cleaner
  • using a disposable tissue when coughing or sneezing and disposing of the tissue immediately afterwards
  • avoiding close contact with people who are unwell
  • remaining away from others if you are unwell, until you are recovered
  • avoiding sharing clothes or linens such as bedding and towels with others

Vaccinations play a key role in protecting against infectious diseases and illnesses. The Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccination is a single jab that provides long lasting protection after 2 doses. It is important for adults and children to have this vaccine to avoid catching these infections, which can lead to serious problems.

Reporting Measles

The local Public Health - Health Protection Team for North and West Northamptonshire work closely with UKHSA (UK Health Security Agency). They use routine surveillance programmes to monitor the spread of infectious diseases and provide support to prevent and control infection in establishments such as hospitals, care homes and schools.

As Measles is a notifiable disease in England, it is important the health professionals inform East Midlands UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) of any cases for early identification and management of cases to prevent onward transmission of this disease. 

Contact details for East Midlands UKHSA

Telephone: 0344 2254 524 (option 1)
Email: [email protected] 

These are not constantly monitored out of hours.

Further information

Last updated 16 October 2023