Measles (Red Measles)

What is measles?

Measles is a highly contagious infection caused by the measles virus. It is contagious from 4 days before the rash starts to 4 days after the rash starts. Symptoms of measles can develop 7 to 21 days after exposure to the virus. If you have had contact with someone who has been diagnosed with measles, it is important to monitor for symptoms for 21 days after your last exposure. The measles virus lives in the nose and throat of a person who is infected and can be spread through the air (from breathing, coughing, or sneezing). The measles virus can live in the air or on surfaces for up to 2 hours. 

Are we concerned about measles in Ottawa?

The World Health Organization recently reported a 79% increase in the number of global measles cases in 2023 compared to 2022. In Canada, measles is less common because of high vaccination rates and endemic measles has been eliminated (no sustained circulation) since 1998. With the increased measles activity globally, Canada has seen more cases of measles including in Ontario. Weekly updates by health unit are available from Public Health Ontario’s enhanced epidemiological summary, Measles in Ontario. In Ottawa, there have been nine confirmed cases of measles in the last ten years, the most recent in 2019.

Measles vaccine coverage for both 1st and 2nd doses across the Americas and elsewhere globally has dropped over the pandemic, including in Canada. Decreases in vaccine coverage rates can increase the risk of vaccine preventable diseases, like measles, especially as travel increases. The COVID-19 pandemic changed access to routine vaccines, especially for children. With lower vaccination rates it is easier for vaccine preventable diseases, like measles to spread. 

People at greatest risk for complications related to measles are unvaccinated infants, unvaccinated pregnant people, and people who are immunocompromised. Around 9 out of 10 people who are not fully protected against measles will become infected following close contact with a person who is infected with measles. Most complications of a measles infection are rare, but they can be dangerous. They can include ear infections, pneumonia and in some rare instances brain swelling and even death.

Symptoms and guidance following exposure

Signs and symptoms

Symptoms of measles may develop 7 to 21 days after exposure to an infected person. Symptoms include a high fever, runny nose, cough, drowsiness, irritability and red eyes. Small white spots may appear in the mouth and throat. A red blotchy rash begins to appear on the face 3 to 7 days after the start of symptoms, then spreads down the body to the arms and legs. This rash usually lasts 4 to 7 days. Symptoms generally last from 1 to 2 weeks.

What should I do if I was exposed to someone with measles?

Depending on the situation, your vaccination history, and other risk factors, a public health official may advise you of the need to stay home from work or school, get tested, get preventive treatment or get vaccinated. 

What should I do if I have symptoms of measles?

If you develop symptoms of measles, you should be assessed by a physician, and notify the health care facility that you plan to visit so that they are aware of your symptoms prior to your arrival. You should also wear a medical grade mask to the appointment. In the meantime, stay at home to avoid potentially exposing other people (“home  isolation”). Measles is diagnosed by a blood test, a urine sample and a nasopharyngeal swab.

If you are having a  medical emergency, call 911 or visit the nearest emergency department. Advise them of your symptoms,  if you were exposed to measles and if possible wear a medical grade mask.

Vaccination and travel

The best way you can protect yourself and others against measles is by getting the measles vaccine. This vaccine is combined with the vaccine for mumps and rubella and is known as the MMR vaccine. The MMR vaccine can also be combined with the varicella vaccine (MMR-V) for some populations. MMR and MMR-V are very safe vaccines and very effective against measles. Two doses of measles vaccination is 99% effective at preventing infection.

If you are travelling consult a health care provider at least six weeks before you travel to review your immunization history and make sure you are up to date with your vaccines.

Vaccination for children and youth

In Ontario, as a part of routine vaccinations children receive two doses of measles vaccine before the age of 7.

  • Children receive one dose of the MMR vaccine (measles, mumps & rubella) at 12 months.
  • Children receive a second dose of measles containing vaccine, MMRV vaccine (measles, mumps, rubella & varicella), between 4 and 6 years old.
  • Infants 6-11 months: One dose of MMR vaccine may be given if infant is travelling outside of Canada. (Note: Two additional doses of measles-containing vaccine must be administered after the child is 12 months old to ensure long lasting immunity to measles).

Where to get vaccinated

  • Family doctors and walk-in clinics offer vaccines. Call ahead of your visit to make sure that the vaccine is available. If you are looking for a family doctor please register with  Health Care Connect. A nurse will help you find a doctor or nurse practitioner who is accepting new patients in our community. 

Vaccination for adults

  • All adults born in or after 1970 in Ontario can receive two doses of Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) vaccine through a healthcare provider. In this age group, it is strongly recommended that travellers to destinations outside of Canada and students in post-secondary educational settings have received two doses.
  • All adults born before 1970 are generally presumed to have natural immunity to measles and may not require vaccination if considered to be low risk of exposure. A one time dose of Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) vaccine is publicly funded (no cost) for this age group through a healthcare provider which is strongly recommended for travellers to destinations outside of Canada and students in post-secondary educational settings.
  • Healthcare workers and military personnel are recommended to receive two doses of measles-containing vaccine regardless of year of birth.

Where to get vaccinated

  • Primary health care providers play a key role in supporting their patients in remaining up-to date with their immunizations, especially in advance of any upcoming travel.
  • Adults who do not have access to a primary care provider may get vaccinated at a walk-in clinic or consider getting vaccinated at a travel clinic. To find a travel clinic or walk-in clinic in your area, visit or all 8-1-1 to find a service near you.

What to expect after receiving the measles vaccine

Reactions to the MMR (or MMRV) vaccine are mild and temporary. They include pain and redness at the injection site, fever less than 39°C. Serious side effects are rare.

Reporting and updating your immunization record

Parent(s)/Guardian(s) are responsible for updating Ottawa Public Health (OPH) every time their child receives immunizations given by their health care provider. Providing immunization updates to OPH helps protect you and the public in case there is ever an outbreak in our community. Doctors do not report your immunizations to OPH. 

Health care providers do not report vaccination records to Ottawa Public Health.

Ways to report your vaccination record to Ottawa Public Health

Ottawa Public Health does not collect records of immunizations received for anyone 18 years or older, if Ottawa Public Health did not administer the immunization. Please do not submit records to us as we are not able to process them.

Unsure of your vaccination status?

A picture of Ontario's Personal Immunization Record

Check your yellow Personal Immunization Record to see whether you got the required vaccines for measles when you were a child. For children and youth attending elementary or secondary school in Ottawa you may visit our Parenting in Ottawa webpage to see whether there is a record on file with Ottawa Public Health. For information on accessing your immunization records, as an adult visit, our Adult Immunization information page on If you are unsure, speak to your health care provider or the health agency outside of Ontario if that is where you would have received your vaccines.


Children who do not have or cannot access a regular health care provider can book a routine vaccine appointment and/or assessment at an OPH community clinic or at a participating partner through the Kids Come First Clinic Flow booking webpage. OPH is also offering routine childhood immunizations through its Neighbourhood Health and Wellness Hubs on a drop-in basis for people who may be facing additional barriers to immunization and reporting.                                     

What is Ottawa Public Health’s role?

Ottawa Public Health (OPH) follows up with all people who are suspected of or diagnosed with  measles and their contacts. If there are cases in Ottawa, OPH will work with health system partners, workplaces, and school boards to limit the spread of the virus. OPH also offers routine immunization services for children and youth who live in Ottawa and who are facing barriers in getting their routine immunizations in the community.

Background information 




Contact Us