Measles can be a very serious illness and, in rare cases, it can be fatal.

There have been a growing number of cases of measles reported in Italy, France, Greece and Portugal as well as other areas across Europe and the UK. Adults aged 30 and under, children and teenagers, who have not had measles or the MMR vaccine, are at the greatest risk.

Measles causes cold-like symptoms and a rash that spreads across the body. It is very infectious and can be passed between children and adults very quickly. You can catch measles if you spend just 15 minutes with someone who has it already.

Most people with measles can expect to feel unwell for seven to ten days. Your GP might suggest that you rest at home and take steps to improve your symptoms until you are feeling better.

In rare cases, the complications of measles can include serious infections of the lungs (pneumonia) and brain (encephalitis). If you are worried about your symptoms please call NHS 111 for more advice.

measles virus under the microscope
Measles virus under the microscope

If you have measles, even if you feel well in yourself, it is important that you arrange to stay away from school, college, work or other places where you are likely to meet a number of people for a few days. This is to help slow down the spread of the infection to other people who may be at an increased risk of developing serious complications. Keep in mind that one in ten children with measles will go on to spend time in hospital.

Whilst there is no treatment for measles, there is a safe, effective vaccination that protects you from catching it in the first place. The vaccination is available to adults and children for free as part of the National Health Service.

Children have access to the MMR vaccine as a part of the childhood immunisation programme. It is usually given as a first dose around the age of 13 months and again as a “booster” jab before school between the ages of 3 and 5.

Teenagers, young adults and at risk individuals who have not had measles before will also require two doses of the MMR vaccine. You can call your local GP practice and make an appointment for a free MMR jab. The required two doses can be given just a month apart to give protection as quickly as possible.

If you have had measles, or have received a full vaccine then you are not considered at risk. If you are in any doubt, you can find out more by contacting your GP.

Advice for adults aged 30 and under and young people that have not had measles or a vaccination

You should make immediate arrangements with your GP to receive the MMR vaccination if you are:

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