Last updated: November 12, 2019
Measles is a very contagious viral infection. It spreads when a person infected with measles virus breathes, coughs, or sneezes. The virus can still be on surfaces and in the air up to two hours after that person is gone from a room. Measles is rare in Canada due to high vaccination rates, but outbreaks do occur from time to time.
Measles symptoms begin with a fever, runny nose, cough and red eyes. After a few days, a red blotchy rash will appear on the face and spreads down the body.
Getting vaccinated is the most effective way to prevent getting measles. One dose provides about 85% protection and two doses 95% protection.
Children routinely get a measles-containing vaccine at one year and four to six years of age. Parents can make sure your child’s vaccines are up to date by checking their yellow immunization card or with your health care provider.
For those born between 1970 and 1995, you may have only received one dose of measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine. A second dose is required for full protection. If you are unsure about your vaccination status or have only received one dose of measles-containing vaccine, a booster dose is recommended.
Those born before 1970 likely had measles infection as a child. However if you are unsure, you can still get vaccinated.
For more information, refer to the Measles Mumps Rubella vaccine fact sheet.
Measles symptoms begin with a fever (over 103ºF), runny nose, cough, and red and watery eyes.
After a few days, a red blotchy rash will appear on the face and spreads down the body. Most people recover fully from measles in two weeks. Symptoms are more severe in infants and adults.
Measles can also lead to ear infections, lung infections (pneumonia), swelling of the brain (encephalitis), hearing loss, seizures, permanent brain damage (subacute sclerosing panencephalitis) or death. Measles in pregnancy can lead to premature delivery, low birth weight and miscarriage.
If you have come into contact with a contagious measles case, monitor for signs and symptoms.
If you develop symptoms, call ahead before visiting your physician’s office or health clinic to prevent possible further exposures.
Tests for measles include a nose or throat swab, a urine test and sometimes blood work.
Measles is a disease of public health significance under the Health Protection and Promotion Act. Health care providers are required to report suspect or laboratory confirmed diseases of public health significance to the Medical Officer of Health.
Toronto Public Health staff respond to reports of diseases of public health significance by initiating a disease investigation. Additional information is gathered during the investigation to determine where measles was acquired and if there is a potential risk to the public.
Tests for measles include a nose or throat swab, a urine test and sometimes blood work. The laboratory will process these tests to determine if an individual is infected with the measles virus. It can take a few days for the laboratory to confirm test results.
When a case of measles is confirmed, Toronto Public Health will continue with the case investigation and management.
A news release and/or other communications is issued when there is a potential risk to the community. This communication may include information about where others may have been exposed to the measles virus, a reminder about checking vaccine status and what to do if you think you have measles.
If you are planning to travel, make sure that your immunizations are up to date for you and all of your family members before travelling. Measles is spreading in North America, Europe and around the world and the MMR and MMRV vaccines will protect you from getting sick.
In 2018, there were five cases of measles in Toronto. Four of the five were travel-related and one was a household contact of a person who traveled.
The five-year average in Toronto is five cases of measles a year.
For more measles data, please refer to Communicable Diseases in Toronto – 2017.