What is Measles?

Measles is a virus that can make adults and children very sick.  It is highly infectious and can spread quickly and easily through breathing, sneezing and coughing.  If you are not immune to measles, you can catch the disease just by being in the same room as someone who has it.

How serious is measles?

Measles can lead to hospitalisation, serious complications (such as pneumonia and swelling of the brain) or, in rare cases, death.  It is especially serious for pregnant women who are not immune, babies and people with weakened immune systems.

What are the symptoms of measles?

Measles symptoms include a high fever, runny nose, cough and sore red eyes.  A few days later a rash starts on the face and neck, and then spreads to the rest of the body.  You can have measles and spread it to others before you feel sick or show any symptoms.

What should I do if I think I or a family member has measles?

If you think you have measles, stay home and call your doctor or Healthline on 0800 611 116.  Healthline operates 24/7 and has a translator service available.  If you are going to visit a medical centre or after hours clinic, please phone before you go.  When you arrive, you must be isolated and not sit in the waiting room.  This is to prevent spreading the disease to others.

How can I protect myself and my family against measles?

The best protection against measles is to be vaccinated with two doses of the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine.  One dose of MMR will protect around 95% of people, while two doses protect around 99% of people.  In New Zealand, the MMR vaccine is routinely given to children at 15 months and 4 years, but this timing can change during an outbreak.  In the current Auckland outbreak, the vaccine is available to children from 12 months old.  It can take two weeks for a person to be fully immune after being vaccinated.

The Ministry of Health has modified the standard MMR vaccination catch-up advice.

Infants aged under 15 months

  • Infants are recommended to receive their MMR vaccination at 12 months of age as per the Immunisation Schedule.

Children aged between 15 months and 4 years

  • Pre-school aged children should receive their normal MMR vaccinations as per the Immunisation Schedule.

Click here for more information for children aged 12 months to under 5 years.

Older children, teenagers and adults aged under 29 years

  • In the short term vaccine supplies are limited. Vaccinators are recommended to prioritise those who do not have any documented measles-containing vaccine doses when aged 12 months or older and administer one catch-up MMR vaccination. This is because after one measles-containing vaccine (measles only, measles-rubella only or MMR vaccines) 90–95 people in 100 are protected from measles. The second MMR vaccine dose is to make sure the 5–10% who are still susceptible to measles have a second opportunity to become protected.
  • The second MMR catch-up dose is recommended to be administered once MMR vaccine demand returns to normal (and a minimum of 4 weeks after the first MMR dose).

Adults aged between 29 and 50 years

  • Adults in this age group are expected to have received at least one measles-containing vaccination. However, if the person does not have any documented measles-containing vaccine doses when aged 12 months or older the vaccinator can administer one catch-up MMR vaccination. 
  • Subsequent MMR catch-up doses are recommended to be administered once MMR vaccine demand returns to normal (and a minimum of 4 weeks after the first MMR dose).

Click here for more information about children at primary, intermediate or high school, and adults born in 1969 or later.

Adults aged 50 years or older (born before 1969)

  • Adults born in New Zealand prior to 1969 are considered to be immune to measles as there was no measles containing vaccine until 1969 and the disease is so highly infectious. MMR vaccination is not generally indicated for adults born in New Zealand prior to 1969. 
  • Adults born overseas prior to 1969 may have received a measles-containing vaccination. If you are unsure whether an individual is likely to be susceptible to measles, please call us on 0800 IMMUNE (0800 466 863).2