High risk of a measles outbreak

We need at least 95% of people to be immunised to stop an outbreak. This also protects babies who are too young to be vaccinated, and severely immunocompromised people.

On average, 1 dose is 95% effective against measles, and 2 doses is more than 99% effective against measles.

There is a risk of getting measles if you have not had 2 vaccinations, or have not already had measles. The measles (MMR) vaccine is free for all children age 18 and under in NZ, and all adults over the age of 18 who are eligible for free NZ healthcare.

Symptoms of measles

Measles symptoms can start 7 to 18 days after you are exposed to the virus. The symptoms usually start within 10 days.

The first symptoms of measles are:

  • fever
  • cough
  • runny nose
  • sore red eyes


Measles makes people feel very unwell. Tamariki can be in bed for up to 5 days and will likely to be too sick to go to school for at least 2 weeks.

Red or dark pink rash
The next symptom is a red or dark pink rash. The spots are blotchy and join together. It usually starts on the face or behind the ears 3 days after the first symptoms, before moving down the body.

The rash is not usually itchy. It can last for a week or more. There may also be white spots in the mouth.

Who to contact for medical advice
If you have symptoms that you are worried about:

  • contact your usual doctor or healthcare provider
  • call Healthline for free advice 0800 611 116
  • call 111 for an ambulance in an emergency.

How measles spreads

Measles spreads through coughing and sneezing. Anyone who has not received at least 2 doses of a measles vaccine or has not already had the disease is at risk of catching and spreading measles. You can still get and spread measles with only 1 dose of the vaccine.

Diagnosing measles

If you think you or someone in your whānau has measles, call your healthcare provider or Healthline for advice as soon as possible.

Before you see your healthcare provider
Call your healthcare provider before you visit them. Measles is easily passed on from 1 person to another. Your healthcare provider will need to protect others against the risk before you can go to visit them.

How to get a measles diagnosis
Your healthcare provider will usually check if your rash matches measles. They might look for white spots in the mouth, fever, cough, or sore throat.

They may also do a blood test, a throat swab or urine sample.

If you have been exposed to measles

If you may have had contact with measles, stay home and contact a health professional or call Healthline for advice. This is especially important if you are not sure if you are immunised.

Depending on how soon you can see a healthcare provider you might be able to get treatment that reduces your chances of getting measles. It is important to contact your healthcare provider as soon as you think you have had contact with measles.

This is especially important for tamariki under 1 year old, people with a weakened immune system, or if you are pregnant.

Staying home

A person with measles is most contagious from when symptoms start until 3 to 4 days after the rash appears.

If you have measles, or have been identified as a contact of someone with measles, the public health service will contact you to let you know what you need to do. They will support you with advice on how to keep yourself and your whānau safe during your illness.

If you have measles, you must isolate (stay at home and not go to work or school) for at least 4 days after your rash appears to avoid giving it to others. 

If you have had contact with someone with measles but are not sick, you will need to isolate at home, unless you are immune to measles, for example:

  • you are immunised
  • you have had measles before, or
  • you were born before 1 January 1969.

You can also use the ‘Measles quarantine calculator’ to work out how long you should stay home.

Measles quarantine calculator — National Public Health Service – Northern Region ↗

If you do not hear from the public health service, or have any questions, phone Healthline for more information.

Call Healthline on 0800 611 116

Treatment for measles

There is no specific treatment for measles once symptoms have started. Your healthcare provider will give you advice to relieve symptoms. 

If you or a whānau member becomes more unwell, you may need to go to hospital for treatment.

Preventing measles

Aotearoa New Zealand is at very high risk of a measles outbreak. The best protection against measles is the free measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine.

Immunisation is very important if you are planning to travel overseas. It protects you and helps prevent outbreaks in New Zealand.

What the MMR vaccine protects you from

The MMR vaccine protects against 3 viral infections — measles, mumps and rubella.


Measles is one of the most dangerous and contagious diseases. If you are not vaccinated and come into contact with someone who has it, you are very likely to catch it and pass it on to others.

Measles can cause a rash, flu-like symptoms, or more serious problems like brain swelling, chest infections, or death.

If you are pregnant, measles can make you very sick and can harm your baby.

Find out more about the symptoms, spread and treatment.

Measles ↗


Mumps is an infectious illness caused by a virus. It leads to painful swelling in the salivary glands around the face.

In rare cases, there can be serious complications such as hearing loss, an infection of the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord (meningitis, or inflammation of the brain (encephalitis).

Aotearoa New Zealand had an outbreak of mumps in 2017. This only settled and finally disappeared with the first COVID-19 lockdown because the disease was not able to spread easily.

Find out more about the symptoms, spread and treatment.

Mumps ↗


For children, rubella is usually a mild viral illness that causes a spotty rash. If you catch it when you are pregnant, however, it can cause serious birth defects in your baby such as deafness, heart defects, and brain damage.

Find out more about the symptoms, spread and treatment.

Rubella ↗

Which vaccine is used

The vaccine we use in New Zealand is Priorix. This vaccine which protects against measles, mumps, and rubella. 2 doses, at least a month apart, are needed for best protection.

It is not possible to separate these diseases out. For example, there is no ‘measles only’ vaccine available in New Zealand.

Priorix is a live vaccine. Live vaccines contain bacteria or viruses that have been weakened so that they cannot cause disease. This small amount of virus or bacteria stimulates an immune response.

The Priorix vaccine does not contain porcine (pork) products.

Priorix information – Medsafe (PDF 276KB) ↗

Side effects and reactions

Like most medicines, vaccines can sometimes cause reactions. These are usually mild, and not everyone will get them.

Mild reactions are normal and shows that your immune system is responding to the vaccine.

If you are going to have any reactions, they normally happen in the first few days after getting vaccinated. The vaccine itself is gone from your body within a few hours or days.

The most common reaction to an immunisation includes:

  • a slight fever
  • pain or swelling where the needle went in.


Other reactions
Other common reactions of the MMR vaccine include:

  • mild rash — between 6 and 12 days after immunisation
  • high fever — over 39°C between 6 and 12 days after immunisation
  • swollen glands in the cheeks, neck, or under the jaw
  • temporary joint pain — 2 to 4 weeks after immunisation.


A very rare side effect is bruise-like spots that appear 15 days to 6 weeks after immunisation. This is mild, and usually goes away within 6 months.


Allergic reactions
Serious allergic reactions are extremely rare. Only about 1 in 1 million people will experience this.

Your vaccinator is well-trained and knows what to look for and can treat an allergic reaction quickly if it happens.

Serious allergic reactions normally happen within the first few minutes of vaccination, this is why you need to wait for up to 20 minutes after immunisation.

Book an MMR vaccine

It is easy and free to get immunised against measles, mumps, and rubella.

For ages 13 and over
Vaccinations for individuals or groups aged 13 or over can be booked online or over the phone.


For under age 13
Contact your usual doctor, nurse, or healthcare provider to book an appointment for someone under 13.

People over 3 years old can get an MMR vaccine at lots of pharmacies. You can search for one near you on Healthpoint.

Pharmacies offering MMR vaccinations — Healthpoint ↗

Some places offer group appointments for immunisations. Contact your doctor, nurse, healthcare provider, or pharmacy to see if your whānau can have a group appointment so you can all get vaccinated together.

More information on bookings and support services
Find more information on booking a vaccine, or how to get specific support for your needs.


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