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Measles & Rubella Fact Sheet

Measles is one of the most contagious diseases ever known. It causes death and disability among young children across the world. When someone has measles almost everyone they come into contact with will catch measles too – unless they are immunised. Because measles is so infectious lots of people can become ill with measles very quickly, this is called an epidemic.

Measles is a disease that can make you very ill and weak, cause you to lose your sight and may even kill you, especially if you haven’t had enough food to grow strong. When children are malnourished or weak measles is even more dangerous. Measles can make children vulnerable to other diseases, like diarrhoea, ear and eye infections, respiratory illnesses, and these may cause disabilities including blindness or death.

Child with measles
A baby with a rash and a fever being cooled down with wet cloths.

‘Pradeep has had a high fever for six days, with red eyes, a runny nose, noisy breathing and a cough and a rash all over. He has measles and is very ill. If he gets better, he will be weak for a long time and may catch other diseases. One of his friends became blind after being ill with measles.’

Signs and symptoms of measles:

  • High fever
  • Cough
  • Red rash

And also…

  • Red eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Diarrhoea

There is no treatment for the measles virus.


Rubella (sometimes called German Measles) is another disease that is similar to measles but is most dangerous for pregnant women because it can harm the foetus. Measles and rubella are both diseases you can be immunised against and children usually get immunised against both at the same time.


The measles vaccine is often incorporated with rubella and/or mumps vaccines in countries where these illnesses are problems.

Children need to have two doses of the measles vaccine to be protected against measles. The first dose before their first birthday and the second one later with other routine immunisations to make sure the child is fully protected. Some children aren’t protected with just one dose.

The Measles and Rubella Initiative

This is a website about the work happening across governments and organisations to prevent measles across the world and keep children safe from this killer disease. It is a fantastic, informative, child friendly, clear website with lots of lovely pictures by an artist who makes children’s books, Sophie Blackall, who you can find out more about as well.

You can find information about immunisation against measles and more about the disease on the Measles & Rubella 2017 Fact Sheet which you can download as a PDF.

There is a useful poster on measles and rubella showing how important immunisation is children and teachers can use to learn about measles and immunisation.

There is an interactive Measles and Rubella Map that has lots of information about what is happening all over the world to overcome measles. This map has stories from different countries, just click on the pins.

Centres for Disease Control

The CDC have a page on measles vaccination and it’s full of links to other useful resources.

A useful resource on CDC is the questions and answers sheet on measles which you can download as a PDF.