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Measles is a highly infectious disease spread through sneezing, coughing or direct contact with respiratory secretions. It causes a rash, fever and muscle aches and can have serious complications. Measles continues to be one of the leading causes of death among young children.

Recommendations for Travellers

Individuals should check with their General Practice to ensure that they have received two doses of MMR vaccination prior to travel particularly to areas where the risk of measles is high. Previous  infection with measles, mumps or rubella provides lifelong immunity against that particular disease.

Measles is still common in much of Asia, Africa, the Indian sub-continent and South America. More recently there have been outbreaks of measles in many developed countries such as the Australia, US, Canada, New Zealand and numerous European countries including the UK.

The risk is greater when living or working with local people or travelling for large gatherings, for example sporting and music events.


The two vaccines that protect against measles are combined with mumps and rubella (MMR). MMR vaccine is usually given to children as part of the national childhood schedule, in infancy and prior to starting school. Two doses of vaccine give long-lasting protection against all three diseases.

Travelling Whilst Ill

In order to minimise the risk of passing infections in an aircraft, passengers who are actively unwell, especially if they have a fever, should delay travel until they have recovered

  • There is the potential for measles infection to spread between passengers who are seated in the same area of an aircraft, usually as a result of a cough or sneeze or by touch. This is no different from being close to someone in any other form of transport such as a bus or train
  • If a traveller travels by plane whilst infectious with measles, other passengers on that plane need to be contacted and informed by public health authorities
  • An airline has the right to refuse any passenger who is unwell and who may be infectious

Overview of the Disease

Measles is a highly infectious viral disease that occurs throughout the world, it is transmitted by sneezing, coughing or direct contact with respiratory secretions. Measles continues to be one of the leading causes of death among young children even though a safe and cost-effective vaccine is available.

The Illness

Measles usually starts with flu-like symptoms approximately 10 days after becoming infected. Such symptoms may include fever, muscle aches, cough, redness and inflamation of the eyes. These symptoms are typically followed a few days later by the measles rash, a red-brown blotchy rash that usually starts on the head or upper neck, before spreading outwards to the rest of the body.

For most people, the illness lasts around 7 to 10 days in total. However, serious complications can occur and the disease can be fatal.


There is no specific treatment available.

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