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April 15, 2014

Measles: A highly contagious disease

While there are occasionally fresh outbreaks of declared cases of measles, the disease is much less common today, thanks to immunization. Measles is caused by the 'paramyxovirus,' which spreads through airborne particles (as a result of sneezing or coughing), direct contact (with nose or throat discharge of an infected person) or indirect contact.

Differences between chickenpox and measles 

Similar in some respects, these two diseases are actually quite different in terms of their incubation and infectious periods, warning signs, symptoms, etc. All of these factors differ from one disease to the other, sometimes making it difficult to tell them apart.






Runny nose

Puffy eyes


Köplik’s spots (small white spots at the centre of a red lesions inside the cheeks)

A red or brown rash, with intervals of unaffected skin.


Mild headaches



Muscle or joint pain


Red spots that turn into blisters


About 10 days after exposure

From 10 to 21 days after exposure

Infectious period

From 4 days before the appearance of the rash until 5 days after onset

From 2 days before the appearance of the first symptoms until 7 days after onset

There are other contagious viral infections with similar symptoms. Always consult a health professional for an accurate diagnosis.


Beyond the symptoms it causes, measles can also lead to complications (e.g. lung infection, encephalitis) and serious consequences (brain damage) and, in rare cases, death (in developed countries, 2 to 3 cases in 1000 are fatal. In developing countries, 3 to 5 cases in 1000 lead to death).
Complications seem to be more common among people with an immune system compromised by a serious disease or treatment, babies under one year of age and people suffering from malnutrition (particularly vitamin A deficiency).

Pregnant women

Pregnant women not immunized against measles should avoid contact with those who are infected. The risk of birth defects and miscarriages increases if a woman contracts the virus during pregnancy.


Measles cannot be treated, but only combated by the body. For this reason, vaccination is important since it allows you to avoid catching it.

There are, however, ways to ease the pain, itchiness and fever of those affected: over-the-counter medications, for example, such as acetaminophen. In the case of adults, there are also prescription medications available.

Good to know!
If you have had contact with someone who has measles, call your doctor or CLSC to find out if you can receive the vaccine or a shot of antibodies.


Since the discovery of a measles vaccine in 1963, vaccination has become the best way to prevent the disease. In fact, it protects over 95 percent of children. The MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) vaccine is included in the immunization schedule offered by the Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux.

Pharmacy services

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The Website deals with health-related topics. The information presented has been validated by experts and is accurate at the time of posting. In no way does it replace the opinion of a health care professional. Uniprix Inc. and its affiliated pharmacists accept no liability whatsoever in connection with the information provided on this Website.