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29 Mar 2023

Measles Q&A

What is Measles?
Measles is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by the Rubeola Virus.
What are the symptoms of Measles?
Around 7-14 days after contracting the virus, patients generally develop fever, cough, runny nose and red eyes. Tiny white or bluish spots called Koplik’s Spots may appear inside the cheeks of the mouth a few days later. This is followed 3 to 7 days later by a red blotchy skin rash, which usually spreads from the face to the rest of the body. The rash usually lasts 4 - 7 days, but can persist for up to 3 weeks, leaving the patient with brownish staining and sometimes fine skin peeling.

In severe cases, lung, intestine and brain can become involved and lead to serious consequences or even death.
How is Measles transmitted?
Measles can be transmitted by airborne droplets which are spread by coughing and sneezing or by direct contact with nasal or throat secretions of infected persons, and less commonly, by articles soiled with nasal or throat secretions. Measles virus can live up to two hours in the air or on a surface after an infected person coughed or sneezed. The patient can pass the disease to other persons from 4 days before to 4 days after the appearance of the rash.
How can I prevent contracting Measles?
To prevent contracting measles, members of the public are advised to observe the following:

Vaccination against measles is the single most effective preventive measure. Under the Hong Kong Childhood Immunisation Programme, children are given Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine at 1 year old and at Primary 1;
• Maintain good personal and environmental hygiene;
• Maintain good indoor ventilation;
• Avoid crowded places;
• Keep hands clean and wash hands properly;
• Use alcohol hand rub regularly and especially after being outdoors;
• Wear a surgical mask;
• Cover nose and mouth with tissue paper when sneezing or coughing. Dispose of soiled tissues into a lidded rubbish bin, then wash hands thoroughly;
• Clean used toys and furniture properly using anti-bacterial spray or wipes;
• Consult doctors promptly if symptoms of measles develop;
• Refrain from work or school until 4 days from the appearance of rash to prevent spread of the infection.
What should I do if I intend to travel to areas with recent Measles outbreak?
Measles remain as an endemic infection in many places around the world. Many countries in the world are experiencing resurgence of measles with outbreaks reported recently, including countries in Europe and in South East Asia. Travellers’ should pay attention to the risk of measles. For outbreak news of the affected areas, please refer to the website of Department of Health's Travel Health Service.

Vaccination against measles is the most effective way to prevent the disease. For those who had received two doses of measles-containing vaccine or confirmed to have measles infection in the past are considered to be immune to measles. People who intend to travel to areas with recent measles outbreak are advised to review their vaccination history and past medical history. Non-immune individuals are advised to consult their doctors about measles vaccination, which is usually given together with mumps and rubella vaccines as the MMR vaccine.

For those with incomplete vaccination, unknown vaccination history or unknown immunity against measles, they are advised to consult their doctor for advice on measles vaccination. As it takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop and provide protection against measles, travellers’ are advised to plan and be vaccinated ahead.
Distinguishing between Measles and Rubella (German measles) Virus
Measles is caused by the Rubeola Virus
Rubella, also known as German measles is caused by the Rubella Virus and is a much milder and shorter disease.
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