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What to Know About Measles and How to Stay Safe

Measles is a highly contagious, serious airborne disease caused by a virus that can lead to severe complications and death. Measles infects the respiratory tract and then spreads throughout the body. Being vaccinated is the best way to prevent getting sick with measles or spreading it to other people. We encourage students to check if you've received the Measles vaccine. You can do this by contacting your local public health unit or checking your online immunization records system (e.g., Immunize Connect Ontario - ICON). If you're an international student or from another province in Canada, be sure to check your immunization records from your healthcare provider or whomever previously vaccinated you. If you're still unsure, you can make an appointment with Student Wellness Services (SWS) at Queen's, where they can do a blood test to see if you've been vaccinated. You may also be eligible for vaccination at SWS if your vaccinations are not in accordance with Canadian guidelines (only if you wish to be vaccinated).


What is measles and what are the signs and symptoms?

Measles is a highly infectious disease caused by the measles (rubeola) virus. Symptoms of measles usually begin 10–14 days after exposure to the virus. A prominent rash is the most visible symptom. Early symptoms usually last 4–7 days. They include:

  • running nose

  • cough

  • red and watery eyes

  • small white spots inside the cheeks.

The rash begins about 7–18 days after exposure, usually on the face and upper neck. It spreads over about 3 days, eventually to the hands and feet. It usually lasts 5–6 days before fading.



How is Measles Transmitted?

The virus is spread through the air and by contact with respiratory secretions from the nose and mouth. The measles virus spreads through the air when a person who is infected breathes, coughs, sneezes or talks. The measles virus can persist in the air or on surfaces for up to 2 hours after a person who is infected has left the space.


Who is at risk?

Any non-immune person (not vaccinated or vaccinated but did not develop immunity) can become infected. Unvaccinated young children and pregnant persons are at highest risk of severe measles complications.


How can I avoid contracting measles?

Community-wide vaccination is the most effective way to prevent measles. All children should be vaccinated against measles. 2 doses of the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine or the measles-mumps-rubella-varicella (MMRV) vaccine are routinely given in childhood. Two doses provides lifelong immunity in most people.


So, be sure to check if you've been vaccinated in your childhood and if not, we encourage you to get vaccinated! Take care and stay safe!



References

World Health Organization. (2023). Measles. Retrieved from: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/measles



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