Think measles!

Vaccination rates have fallen, and cases of measles are increasing in England.

Measles is more than ‘just a rash’, it is a serious illness that can be unpleasant and lead to complications, especially in vulnerable, immunocompromised, or pregnant patients. Having the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine is the best way to prevent it.

Check with your GP to see if you and your loved ones are up to date with this vaccine. Immunisation history can be viewed via the NHS App

Measles is highly infectious to anyone who is not immune – being in the same room as someone with measles for more than 15 minutes is a significant amount of exposure.

Measles symptoms can include:

  • high fever
  • sore, red, watery eyes
  • coughing and/or runny nose
  • small red spots with bluish-white centres inside the mouth (see below image for reference)
  • a red-brown blotchy rash, which appears after several days (see below images for reference)

Measles starts with a two to four day ‘prodromal’ phase before the rash appears, with a stuffy nose, cough, conjunctivitis and a fever. The rash generally starts behind the ears, spreads to the face, and then expands.

Koplik spots may appear around the time of the rash and last for 2 to 3 days so can easily be missed. They are small white or bluish/white lesions on the buccal mucosa. They can be confused with other lesions in the mouth and so their suspected presence is an unreliable marker of measles.

The infectious period spans 8 days i.e. cases are infectious from 4 days before rash onset and for 4 full days after.

Ask for an urgent GP appointment or get help from NHS 111 if:

  • you think you or your child may have measles
  • you’ve been in close contact with someone who has measles and you’ve not had measles before or you’ve not had 2 doses of the MMR vaccine
  • you’ve been in close contact with someone who has measles and you’re pregnant – measles can be serious in pregnancy
  • you have a weakened immune system and think you have measles or have been in close contact with someone with measles

To avoid spreading measles, avoid close contact for at least four days from when the rash first appears. Do not share cutlery, cups, towels, clothes or bedding.

Published: Jan 30, 2024