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What is measles?

Measles (sometimes known as morbilli) is a highly infectious viral illness. Measles is most common among children aged one to four years old, although anyone who has not been vaccinated against measles can catch it.

How do you know if someone has measles?

Around 10 days after you get the measles infection, the following symptoms begin to appear:

  • Cold-like symptoms, such as runny nose, watery eyes, swollen eyelids and sneezing.
  • Red eyes and sensitivity to light.
  • A mild to severe temperature, which may peak at over 40.6C (105F) for several days, then fall but go up again when the rash appears.
  • Tiny greyish-white spots (called Koplik's spots) in the mouth and throat.
  • Tiredness, irritability and general lack of energy.
  • Aches and pains.
  • Poor appetite.
  • Dry cough.
  • Red-brown spotty rash.

How does measles spread?

This virus is contained in the millions of tiny droplets that come out of the nose and mouth when someone with measles coughs or sneezes.

You can catch measles by breathing in these droplets or, if the droplets have settled on a surface, by touching the surface and then placing your hands near your nose or mouth.

How do ambulance staff stop measles spreading?

Ambulance staff take special precautions with patients who have measles in order to stop it spreading to other people.

Simple hygiene measures reduce the risk of spreading measles:

  • Everyone should clean their hands before and after touching patients.
  • Hands can be cleaned with soap and water, moist hand wipes or alcohol hand rubs.
  • Staff will wear gloves and aprons when they care for a patient who has measles.
  • The area where the patient was sitting and any equipment used on the patient will be cleaned using biocidal wipes.
  • If linen is used, eg sheets or blankets, these items will be changed between patients.

Does a patient with measles have to be transported on their own?

Patients who have measles must be transported on their own.

Further information is available from the Health Protection Agency website.