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Measles illustration

What is measles?

Highly unpleasant virus which infects travellers all over the world, causing cold-like symptoms, a fever, sore eyes and a blotchy rash. It can sometimes infect the lungs and brain, causing pneumonia and encephalitis.

Measles illustration

Risk areas for Measles

Map of risk areas for Measles
  • Key fact

    If you are not immune and are in close contact with someone who has measles, there is an up to 90% chance you will catch the disease.1

  • How do you get measles?

    By breathing in tiny droplets spread by the coughs and sneezes of people infected with the measles virus.1 The virus survives up to two hours on surfaces and in the air, so can also be picked up on the hands and then carried to the mouth, nose and eyes.1 People with the infection can spread the virus up to four days before or after the appearance of the rash.

  • Which countries are affected by measles?

    Measles vaccination significantly reduced deaths worldwide. But measles is still common in developing countries, especially in parts of Africa and Asia. Parts of Europe are also affected (see map).2,3

  • What are the symptoms of measles?

    Coughs, sneezes and a runny or blocked nose; sore eyes; fever; patchy red rash, usually spreading from the head and neck to the rest of the body.4

  • How serious is measles?

    In most cases, the symptoms last about a week.4 But occasionally there are severe complications such as pneumonia (up to 1 in 20 children) and inflammation of the brain, known as encephalitis (up to 1 in 1,000 children).5

  • Can I prevent getting measles?

    You can take the following precautions to help reduce your risk of infection:

    • Visit your nearest convenient pharmacy or specialist travel health clinic for a risk assessment before your trip
    • Avoid contact with people who have measles since the disease is highly infectious.1

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* This list is not exhaustive and other travel health providers are available.

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  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Measles. Transmission of Measles. November 2020. Available online: (Last accessed May 2023)
  2. World Health Organization. Immunization data. Provisional measles and rubella data. Global Measles and Rubella Monthly Update. 2023. Available online: (Last accessed May 2023)
  3. World Health Organisation. Factsheets. Measles. March 2023. Available online: (Last accessed May 2023)
  4. Conditions. Measles. February 2022. Available online: (Last accessed May 2023)
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Measles. Complications of Measles. November 2020. Available online: (Last accessed May 2023)

UK-BOTB-2100031 (v2.0) May 2023