Global Measles Notice

Level 1 - Practise health precautions (more details)

Original publication date: July 23, 2019

Updated: March 13, 2024

Current Situation

There is an increase of measles activity worldwide.

Vaccination is the most effective way to prevent measles infection. Anyone who is not immune against measles is at risk of being infected, especially when travelling abroad. To be immune, you must be fully vaccinated, or have had a lab-confirmed measles infection before.

In addition to the risks to your own health and that of your family, if you become infected with measles while travelling you may spread it to those who are not vaccinated upon your return to Canada. You could also infect vulnerable people who are unable to be vaccinated (e.g., young infants, pregnant people, and people with weakened immune systems).  

About measles

The measles virus spreads very easily through respiratory particles in the air when an infected person breathes, talks, coughs or sneezes in a space shared with others who are not protected. The virus can remain in the air for up to 2 hours. It can also be spread from person to person through direct contact or by touching a contaminated surface or object and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth before cleaning your hands.

First symptoms include:

  • fever
  • cough
  • runny nose
  • red, watery  eyes

Small white spots, called Koplik spots, may appear inside the mouth and throat 2 to 3 days after symptoms begin.

About 3 to 7 days after symptoms begin, a rash develops on the face, then spreads down the body, arms and legs. This rash is not itchy and looks like small flat red spots, that will join together as they spread. The rash can last 4-7 days, and can be accompanied by a spike in fever.

Most people recover from measles within 2 to 3 weeks, however, in some cases, people can develop severe complications. This can include:

  • respiratory failure
  • inflammation and swelling of the brain (encephalitis)
  • if pregnant, premature birth and low birth weight
  • blindness
  • death

Long-term complications include subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE), a rare but fatal disease that can develop 7-10 years after a child has measles.  

Some groups of people are more likely to suffer from complications of measles:

  • unvaccinated young children (especially those under 5 years of age)
  • pregnant people
  • people with weakened immune systems 

Learn more about:

Measles: Symptoms and treatment


Get vaccinated for measles

Protection against measles is important for everyone. In Canada, the measles vaccine is part of our routine immunization schedule. If you are unsure whether you are protected against measles, talk to a health care provider.  

Vaccination is especially important for people planning travel. Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic preferably at least 6 weeks before you travel to get personalized health advice and recommendations. 

The following is recommended:

  • Those born BEFORE 1970:
    • 1 dose of the measles-containing vaccine if there is no evidence of immunity (e.g. through blood testing or history of lab-confirmed measles disease)
  • Those born in 1970 or AFTER (12 months or older):
    • 2 doses of the measles-containing vaccine if there is no evidence of immunity (e.g. through blood testing or history of lab-confirmed measles disease).
    • Infants (6 months to 12 months of age):
      • If you are travelling with an infant, discuss early measles vaccination with your child’s health care provider. The measles-containing vaccine may be given as early as 6 months of age if you will be travelling to a region where measles is a concern. If this is the case, the routine 2-dose series must be restarted on or after the first birthday. A total of 3 doses are given.
      • The measles containing vaccine is not recommended for infants under 6 months of age. Discuss with a health care provider how best to protect them from measles.

    Take protective measures

    Consider wearing a well-fitting mask or respirator

    • Wearing  a mask can help protect yourself and others from getting or spreading infectious respiratory diseases, such as measles. 
    • This is especially important in situations where your risk may be higher, such as when you’re around many people, including those who have travelled from many different areas, such as in airports or train stations. 

    Cover your coughs and sneezes

    • Cough or sneeze into a tissue or your elbow, not your hand. 
    • Throw away used tissues as soon as possible, preferably in a lined waste container.

    Clean your hands regularly

    • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use a hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.
      • Keep a bottle of hand sanitizer with you when you travel.
      • If your hands are visibly dirty, you should wash them with soap and water instead of using hand sanitizer.

    Monitor your health

    If you have been exposed to someone who has measles while abroad, follow the advice of local public health officials. They can:

    • determine if you are at risk of getting measles and if further action is needed (for example, vaccination) 
    • provide advice on how to reduce the risk of spreading measles to others.

    If you develop symptoms of measles while abroad or after you return to Canada:

    • Limit contact with other people
    • Call a health care provider and notify them about your symptoms before an in-person appointment, so they can take proper precautions. Wear a well-fitting respirator or medical mask when seeking care.
    • Tell the health care provider where you have travelled and if you’ve been vaccinated against measles.

    If you have symptoms of measles, you should not travel. 

    If you begin to experience any symptoms of measles during your travel back to Canada, you should:

    • put on a well-fitting respirator or mask 
    • limit contact with other people, if possible.
    • inform the flight attendant, cruise staff and/or a border services officer as soon as possible. You may be referred to a Quarantine Officer for a health assessment and further direction.

    Learn more about:

    Hand washing and staying healthy
    Measles: Symptoms and treatment
    Your child's vaccination schedule
    Respiratory infectious diseases: What personal protective measures to use
    If you become sick or injured while travelling outside Canada or after your return

    Information for Health Care Professionals

    Find detailed information on measles and its risk to Canadians, as well as resources on identification, reporting, and prevention and control at the links below.

    Measles: For health professionals
    Measles vaccines: Canadian Immunization Guide
    Immunization of travellers: Canadian Immunization Guide

    Registration of Canadians Abroad

    Sign up with the Registration of Canadians Abroad service to stay connected with the Government of Canada in case of an emergency abroad or an emergency at home.

    Registration of Canadians Abroad

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