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Measles - What you need to know

Measles Q&A and information for parents.

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Find out what you need to know to keep you and your family safe from measles.


General measles questions

infographic of measles symptoms

What are the symptoms?

The signs of measles are a cough, high fever, runny nose and sore red eyes. A few days later, a rash begins on the head and spreads across the body.

How do I know if I’m immune to measles?

To know that you are 99% immune to measles one or more of the following should apply to you:

  1. You have had two measles vaccines (MMR). You need to check your vaccination records in your Well Child (Plunket book) or your family doctor may have records. Please show your principal your vaccination record.
  2. OR you have been diagnosed with measles in the past, or have a blood test proving measles immunity
  3. OR you were born before 1969 as you are likely to have had measles as a child.

You are almost certainly protected from measles if one of the above applies and will not need to be isolated if you come into contact with someone with measles.

Year Born? Protected? Reccomendation?

Born before 1 January 1969 in NZ

Yes, assumed protection as measles was common in NZ at this time. No action required
Born between 1969-1980 in NZ Probably not – received only 1 measles vaccine, which may have been given at 10 months of age when less effective. Get a second MMR vaccine.
Born between 1981-1990 in NZ Protected if you had two measles vaccines. Check your records to see if you have had two measles vaccines.  If in doubt, get a second MMR vaccine.
Born between 1991-1996 in NZ People born 1991 to 1996 may not have had a second measles vaccine.  This was when the second measles vaccine (MMR) was changed from 11 years to 4 years.  Children aged 5 to 10 years at this time were offered catch up MMR vaccine through schools, but uptake and coverage was not high. Check your records to see if you have had two measles vaccines.  If in doubt, get a second MMR vaccine.
Born in NZ since 1 January 1997 Protected if you have had two measles vaccines – usually given at 12-15 months and then at 4 years. Check your records to see if you have had two measles vaccines.  If in doubt, get a second MMR vaccine.

I’ve only had one MMR – do I have to get another vaccination?

To ensure you are 99% protected against measles, it is important to have a second MMR as this vaccine also protects against mumps and rubella. Whilst one MMR does offer 95% of people immunity, it still provides gaps in our community coverage against measles, which puts vulnerable people like new born babies and people with compromised immune systems (e.g. having cancer treatment) at high risk.

What do I if I think I might have measles?

If you suspect you have measles, phone your GP or Healthline free on 0800 611 116 for advice. Because measles is so infectious (easily passed on to other people), ring first rather than just turning up at your doctor’s clinic.

When is someone with measles contagious?

A person with measles is infectious from 5 days before and until 5 days after the rash appears (about 10 days in total). During this time the infected person needs to stay away from other people; children need to be kept home from school and adults from work, do not invite other children or visitors to your house.

Why do I (or my child) have to stay at home in isolation?

If you are developing measles, staying home stops it spreading to others and making them unwell.

What does isolation mean?

It means staying home away from others. Do not go to work, school, group or social activities, sports, or public places like movie theatres, shopping malls, supermarkets and other food markets. Do not use public transport or visit friends or family. Avoid being in the same room as people who are not immune to measles.

I’m pregnant or have a weak immune system – am I at risk?

Pregnant women who haven’t been vaccinated, and anyone with a weakened immune system, are at greater risk of measles complications. They or their caregiver should ask their doctor or lead maternity carer for advice.

I am not sure or don’t have any proof that I have been vaccinated– what do I do?

If you have been exposed to measles but are younger than 50 years, and if your doctor cannot confirm you have been vaccinated or had measles, you will need to stay home for the isolation period. Please get vaccinated when you are out of isolation.

Do I need to be worried about catching measles?

Measles is highly contagious and easily spread.

Most people in the community are protected from measles because they are fully vaccinated or have already had measles.

What does fully vaccinated mean?

Fully vaccinated means having had the right number of vaccines for your age. For anyone 15 months – 4 years old, this means one MMR vaccine. For anyone older than 4 years old this means two MMR vaccines.

Can vaccinated people get measles?

Full vaccination means having had two MMR or other measles vaccines, according to New Zealand’s Immunisation Schedule.

Full vaccination provides 99% coverage for a population meaning that 1 in every 100 vaccinated people can still contract measles.

For that 1% of the population it is likely that their body didn’t create a sufficient immune response to the vaccine.

Vaccinated people who contract measles often get a milder form of the virus and are less contagious to others.

What happens if I test positive for measles?

Your GP will advise you if your measles test comes back positive and will provide information about how long you need to be isolated which will be for 5 days after your rash appeared.

There’s no specific treatment for measles. Your doctor will most likely recommend rest at home with plenty of fluids.

Unlike bacterial infections, viral infections aren’t sensitive to antibiotics. The virus and symptoms typically disappear in about two or three weeks.

In severe cases of measles, particularly when there are more serious complications, hospital treatment may be necessary.

Why isn’t everyone fully vaccinated?

Some people in the community can’t be vaccinated because of allergy or immune conditions. Medical treatments such as chemotherapy can alter someone’s immunity and make them vulnerable to getting measles even if they are fully vaccinated. Babies younger than 1 year old are too young.

Another group of people born between 1970 and 1990 might not realise they are not fully vaccinated. They might have only received one measles vaccine (such as MMR) as a child or might not have access to their immunisation records.

Others choose not to vaccinate.

Why do we publicise locations where measles cases have been?

Slowing the spread of measles is a public health priority.

The Public Health South team is working hard to let people know if they have had close contact with measles. Colleagues, family and friends of cases are being informed and given advice about keeping themselves safe and watching out for symptoms.

When measles cases go to public places while contagious they might unknowingly infect people they don’t know. We publicise those places so everyone can be aware if they might have been infected.

Most New Zealanders are fully vaccinated and not the highest priority for measles public health messages.

Measles information is mostly shared to help protect babies, pregnant women and immune compromised people, such as those going through cancer treatment.

What about the negative effect on restaurants, cafes and shops that have been named?

When we publicise locations where measles cases have been, we provide a date and time of day when risk of infection was possible.

There is no ongoing risk at those locations.

Measles is an airborne virus caught by being nearby someone who is contagious. It is not transmitted through food preparation.

Many public places across New Zealand have had measles cases amongst their staff members and visitors and it does not reflect poorly on the business or individuals.

Infectious diseases are everyone’s responsibility. The best thing you can do is be well informed, kind and community minded.

Where can I find the best advice about measles vaccination?

The Immunisation Advisory Centre’s latest advice on MMR vaccination during the 2019 measles outbreak:

Information for parents

Should I vaccinate my child early?


  • One vaccine at 15 months old
  • One vaccine at 4 years old

Advice for those travelling overseas or to Auckland is kept up to date on the Ministry of Health’s website:

What if I or my child feel sick, and suspect measles OR already have measles and need to see a doctor again?

If you need to see a doctor, phone the medical centre or after-hours clinic before going there and tell them you (or your child) may have measles. When you arrive, you must be isolated and not sit in the waiting room.

My child hasn’t been in the same classroom as a measles case. Are they still at risk?

If your child has been in the same class, room or space as the person with measles while they were infectious, then your child will have been exposed. If your child is not in the same class, even though they may have been in the same classroom afterwards or in the same hall or playground, the risk is much lower. The school is not asking you to keep your child at home, but do watch for symptoms, particularly if they are not vaccinated. We also ask you to check that they are vaccinated.

If my child has been exposed to measles, do I have to tell others?

You do not need to tell anyone else that your child may be developing measles and is in isolation, unless your child is confirmed as having the virus. Only then will you need to inform the school, and then any family and social contacts.

Information for workplaces

This fact sheet has been created to help staff and business owners know what to do if someone in their workplace has measles:



For more information relating to measles, please refer to the Ministry of Health’s website:

Current status of measles cases

Total cases for each location is:

  • Dunedin: 2
  • Oamaru: 1
  • Wanaka: 3
  • Queenstown: 64
  • Gore: 1

*Case numbers updated 31/10/2019.