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Measles is a very contagious illness caused by a virus, called paramyxovirus. It is a serious and trying disease. A measles vaccine is part of the standard immunization schedule of all preschoolers. In Canada, the vaccine is only available as a combined vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella. Adequate immunization is probably the best available protection against this illness.


Onset of symptoms occurs 7 to 14 days following contact with the virus.


Measles is characterized by high fever, painful cough (especially during the night), runny nose and photophobia. Spots resembling tiny grains of salt appear inside the mouth (Koplik's sign) and are followed by a reddish blotchy rash that can cover the entire body. Complications, such as seizures, otitis, pneumonia or encephalitis, sometimes ensue.


Measles is highly contagious. It is spread by contact with infected nose and throat secretions. The patient becomes contagious 2 to 4 days before the onset of symptoms and stays contagious up to 5 days after the rash has appeared. Because of the seriousness of this illness, all necessary precautions should be taken to prevent its transmission to unvaccinated individuals.

One attack of measles confers lifelong immunity, which means that people cannot get measles more than once.

Remember that washing your hands frequently is a simple measure that significantly reduces the risk of transmitting most contagious diseases!

For more information :

Canadian Paediatric Society

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