Measles

Measles is one of the most highly infectious vaccine-preventable diseases. It has been eliminated from circulation in Canada since 1998 due to highly effective vaccines and successful public health programs. Measles is spread when you:

  • breathe air in a location where someone who's infected is or has recently been
  • have direct contact with mucus from the nose or throat of someone who's infected
  • touch a contaminated surface or object and then touch your eyes, nose or mouth

There is a high probability of the introduction of measles infection in PEI in the next few weeks, as there is rapidly emerging evidence of community spread in parts of Canada. Note: there are no confirmed cases in PEI at this time. Any cases of suspected or confirmed measles are reported to the Chief Public Health Office.

The symptoms include: 

  • Fever 
  • Runny nose 
  • Red watery eyes 
  • Cough 
  • Red blotchy rash that begins on the head and spreads down to the trunk, arms and legs. 

If you have recently returned from travel and are experiencing symptoms of measles, you should seek health care, consider calling ahead to let them know of your history of travel,  and wear a mask to your appointment.
Measles usually starts with illness for 3-4 days before the rash appears. The fever tends to be high (at least 104 degrees F / 40℃). 
The fever and rash usually disappear in 3-5 days. 
Complications of measles include ear infection, viral meningitis (inflammation of the brain) or pneumonia.  On rare occasions, measles can result in death. 

Who is recommended to get a dose of the measles vaccine?

Some individuals will have protection based on their age. The current recommendations for vaccination are:

a) Adults born before 1970 are considered to have acquired natural immunity and do not require the vaccine. Exception: individuals traveling outside of Canada should receive one dose of measles vaccine. 

b) Adults born in or after 1970 who have not had measles disease, nor have received two doses of measles vaccine should receive two doses of vaccine

c) Regardless of age, students entering post-secondary education, healthcare workers, and military personnel should receive 2 doses if they have no evidence of having had the disease(s) nor documentation of 2 doses of a measles vaccine.

d) Any person living in PEI who is not up-to-date with their measles vaccines is eligible to receive the vaccine free of charge.

Getting a Vaccine

Where can I book an appointment?

Public Health Nursing offices are experiencing higher than normal call volumes. Many people are reaching out to ask for confirmation of measles vaccination and/or appointments to be immunized against measles. 
Health PEI asks the public for their patience during this time while they work to return messages and book appointments. The public is asked not to leave multiple messages or reach out to multiple office locations, as this will result in longer callback times.
As a reminder, children in PEI are immunized against measles as part of the routine immunization program at ages 12 and 18 months. Some individuals will already have protection against measles based on their age. 
Infants who are travelling can receive the measles vaccine as young as 6 months of age. They should have 1 dose before travelling if under 1 year of age.
The recommended vaccine is provided free of charge at Public Health Nursing offices across PEI.  
The travel clinics on PEI may provide travel vaccination advice and administration of vaccine for a fee. 

How can I find out if my vaccinations are up to date?

Find out what vaccines you need by taking the PEI Adult Immunization Self-Assessment Tool(link is external). Call the Public Health Nursing office in your area and speak with a public health nurse to find out if your vaccinations are up to date.

I am immunocompromised, can I receive a measles vaccine?

Measles (MMR & MMRV) is a live attenuated vaccine. In general, people who are severely immunocompromised or in whom immune status is uncertain should not receive live vaccines because of the risk of disease caused by the vaccine strains.  In less severely immunocompromised people, the benefits of vaccination with routinely recommended live vaccines may outweigh risks. Measles-containing vaccines are also contraindicated in individuals with active, untreated tuberculosis (TB) as a precautionary measure. Avoid live vaccines unless immunosuppression is mild and data is available to support use and the risk of natural infection is greater than the risk of immunization. Please discuss with a healthcare provider familiar with your medical history and immunosuppression. 

I am pregnant, can I receive a measles vaccine?

MMR and MMRV vaccines are generally contraindicated during pregnancy because of the theoretical risk to the fetus. To date, there is no evidence demonstrating a teratogenic or other adverse effect from MMR vaccine given during pregnancy. Inadvertent immunization with MMR vaccine is therefore not a reason for pregnancy termination. 

MMR vaccine is safe to receive if indicated for breastfeeding mothers. 

I’ve already been vaccinated for measles. Should I get another dose of the vaccine?

If you have already received two doses of a measles vaccine, you do not need any additional doses.
If you were born before 1970, you are considered to have acquired natural immunity and do not require the vaccine. Exception: individuals in this age group travelling outside of Canada should receive one dose of measles vaccine

I don’t have a record of receiving a vaccine for measles. Should I get my blood checked to confirm?

Serology (bloodwork) to confirm measles titers is not routinely recommended in PEI. If you do not have a record of receiving a measles vaccine or measles infection, you may be offered measles vaccine

What is the treatment for measles?

There is no treatment for a person who has measles. All children diagnosed with measles should receive two doses of vitamin A supplements, given 24 hours apart. This treatment restores low vitamin A levels during measles that occur even in well-nourished children and can help prevent eye damage and blindness. Vitamin A supplements have also been shown to reduce the number of measles deaths. 

How long is measles contagious for?

A person is contagious 4 days before and 4 days after the rash appears in a person with measles. 

What is the incubation period for measles?

The time between exposure to measles and coming down with the disease is 7 to 21 days. 

For more information about measles

Including how it spreads, symptoms, or how you can protect yourself and others, visit: About Measles

For the Prince Edward Island Measles Guidelines for Management and Control of Measles, visit: PEI Measles Guideline

Published date: 
March 14, 2024
Health and Wellness

General Inquiries

Department of Health and Wellness
4th Floor North, Shaw Building
105 Rochford Street
Charlottetown, PE   C1A 7N8

Phone: 902-368-6414
Fax: 902-368-4121

DeptHW@gov.pe.ca