Measles – how to protect your baby

Measles is a serious disease and very easy to catch. Measles is a problem in NZ right now and particularly in Auckland. Make sure your children are vaccinated against measles. If you have a child who is too young or too sick to vaccinate there are some simple things you can do to help protect them.

How do you prevent measles?

Vaccination given on time is the only way to prevent measles. 

The combined measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine is the only vaccine available to prevent measles in New Zealand.

Children usually have 2 doses of MMR – one dose at 15 months of age and a second at 4 years of age. If there is a high risk of exposure to measles, babies can get their first dose of MMR from 12 months of age. 

If you're unsure about whether your child has had the MMR vaccine, or you can't find your records, you can check with your Well Child Tamariki Ora provider or Well Child book, or contact your family doctor.

What if my child is too young or too sick to vaccinate? 

Some children can't be vaccinated. This might be because they are too young or too sick. You can help protect these vulnerable children by keeping your family’s vaccinations up to date.

When enough people in the community are vaccinated, the spread of a disease slows down or stops completely. If enough people are vaccinated, the disease can't spread. This is called herd immunity.

If your child is too young or too sick to vaccinate, the best way to protect them is to try to prevent them from coming in contact with the virus. 

You can help do this by making sure you:

  • Wash your hands. Just as you would to prevent germs at any time, use soap and water and scrub for at least 20 seconds then dry well. Remind others in your home, or anyone who is near your baby, to do the same.
  • Limit your child's exposure to crowds, other children, and anyone with colds.
  • Go germ-free. Disinfect objects and surfaces in your home regularly.
  • Feed your baby breastmilk, if possible. It has unique antibodies to prevent and fight infections.
  • Vaccinate on timeVaccination given on time is the only way to prevent measles. Make sure any other children or household members are vaccinated. 

Remember, the measles virus can live for 2 hours on a surface or in the air.

Read more about protecting children who can't be immunised against measles Ministry of Health, NZ

What should I do if I think my child has been exposed? 

If you think your child may have come in contact with someone who has measles, call your child’s doctor (GP) – don't visit the clinic without calling first, as you may put others at risk.

The next steps will depend on the situation. If your baby is found to have measles, your doctor will give you advice on how to best care for your child.

In severe cases of measles, particularly if your child is very young or there are complications, hospital treatment may be necessary.

What are the symptoms of the measles?

The most recognisable symptom of measles is a very high fever accompanied by a red or brownish blotchy rash, although these are not the only symptoms.

Before the rash appears, children with measles develop cold-like symptoms, including:

  • cough
  • runny nose
  • fever
  • red, watery eyes.

These symptoms tend to get worse during the first 1 to 3 days of the illness. Read more about measles.

How effective is vaccination against measles?

Approximately 90–95 in 100 people who receive one dose of MMR are protected. Those who do not develop immunity after the first MMR dose, almost always do so after the second dose. Therefore, 2 doses offers the best protection. Read more about the MMR vaccine.

Learn more

The following links provide more information on measles:

Measles advice 2019 Ministry of Health, NZ
Measles Ministry of Health, New Zealand
Measles immunisation KidsHealth NZ
What is measles Auckland Regional Public Health Service
Information for people with measles Auckland Regional Public Health Service
Measles information for contacts Auckland Regional Public Health Service 
High-risk people Auckland Regional Public Health Service
Measles The Immunisation Advisory Centre, New Zealand
Priorix – measles, mumps, rubella vaccine The Immunisation Advisory Centre, New Zealand
Measles management guidelines Starship, NZ