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Measles was once a common childhood disease that is caused by a virus. The virus can live in your nose, mouth, eyes and on your skin. It is highly contagious, which means it spreads very easily.  It is characterized by a red, blotchy rash that begins on the face. It is spread through direct contact with an infected person but mostly by inhaling the secretions from an infected person's nose or mouth. Infection can result in serious illness or death. Thanks to immunization, your risk of getting measles is very low. But since measles is common in other parts of the world, it is still possible for cases to occur in Canada.


Measles is a highly infectious disease  which is spread through respiratory droplets in the air formed when coughing or sneezing. It may also spread through contact with freshly soiled items from nasal and throat discharge, but this is uncommon.

An infected person is contagious and able to spread the virus from five days before the rash appears to four days after.  The measles virus spreads:

  • through direct contact;
  • through the air, such as when an infected person coughs or sneezes;
  • on objects that were recently exposed to infected mucous or saliva, such as shared utensils, cups and tissues.


Currently there is no cure for measles. Treatment focuses only on relieving the symptoms.  Immunization is the best way to protect you and your children. The measles vaccination is given in two doses, usually in childhood. This can protect you for life.

If you or your children have not been vaccinated and have never had measles, you are at risk of infection. Measles is very contagious and easy to catch when you have contact with someone who is infected with the virus.

Travellers who are not vaccinated may bring measles into Canada. As a result, outbreaks may occur, especially in communities where people do not vaccinate their children.

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