How is measles spread?

Measles is a filterable virus that is mainly transmitted through direct contact with the patient's nasal secretions or droplets in the air. Under most circumstances, the measles virus can survive in the air or on the surface of object and remain infectious within about 2 hours . Once exposed to the virus, the risk of infection is high. While the incubation period is around 7 to 21 days, patients can pass the measles virus to others from 4 days before the onset of rash to 4 days after the rash has disappeared.

What are the symptoms of measles?

The initial symptoms of measles include fever, cough, runny nose, red eyes, and white spots in the mouth. Later, there will be rash on the face and neck that gradually spread to the entire body and last from 4 to 7 days. In some patients, the rash can last up to 3 weeks. 

The scary part of measles is that it can cause complications. Patients may develop symptoms such as diarrhea, otitis media, etc. In more serious situations, the patients may suffer from blindness, encephalitis, pneumonia, etc. Serious complications occur more frequently in patients under 5 years old and over 30 years old. In the most serious situations, death can be an outcome. In fact, there is currently no specific treatment for measles, and doctors will generally help to alleviate the symptoms by prescribing medication and encouraging the patients to take more rest.

Preventive measures for measles

Vaccination is currently the most effective way in preventing measles. Currently, the measles vaccination in Hong Kong is given in a form of mixed vaccines, which consist of vaccines for measles, mumps and rubella. Following the first injection, it normally takes two weeks for the body to produce sufficient antibodies in providing effective protection. After two doses of vaccines, the preventive power is generally 97%. Healthy people generally have long-term or even life-long protection after vaccinated against measles. As those who have only received one dose will only have partial immunity, they may consider having another dose of vaccine if necessary. Likewise, they may also consider undergoing testing for measles antibodies.

Meanwhile, we must always pay attention to our personal and environmental hygiene and keep our hands clean. Last but not the least, wash our hands in the correct order for at least 20 seconds or cleaning our hands with 70-80% alcohol hand rubs is also an effective way to protect us from measles.

Who are at higher risk of getting measles?

People who have not been vaccinated or have only received one dose of vaccine, including new immigrants and domestic helpers, are at higher risk of being infected. As people who have just had one shot may only have some immunity, they may consider having another shot of vaccine if necessary. Remember, it takes two weeks for the body to produce sufficient antibodies in order to protect us against measles! Meanwhile, those who were born before 1967 or have been vaccinated with two measles vaccines are considered to have immunity against measles. 

High Risk Groups:

  • ​Born between 1967 - 1977
  • Domestic Helpers and New Immigrants
  • Children under the Age of One (1)

Medium Risk Group:

  • ​Born between 1978 - 1984

Low Risk Groups:

  • ​Born after 1985
  • ​Born before 1967
Last Updated: Jun 2019
Please note that all medical health articles featured on our website have been reviewed by Quality Healthcare doctors. The articles are for general information only and are not medical opinions nor should the contents be used to replace the need for personal consultation with a qualified health professional on the reader’s medical condition.