BLOG: What is measles?

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Liverpool’s Director of Public Health, Professor Matt Ashton, on why you should protect your loved ones against measles, which is one of the most infectious diseases in the world.

Have you heard the news about measles? There is a large outbreak in Birmingham and Coventry mainly affecting children under 10 years old. Many children have needed to be admitted to hospital.

Liverpool has been free from measles for several years, and as Director of Public Health, I am concerned it could easily spread around the country and arrive in Liverpool. We want to make sure that parents have all of the information they need about measles and MMR vaccination so that they feel confident to protect their child. 

What is Measles?

Measles is a nasty infection and can make you very sick if you catch it, especially if you’re already more vulnerable to infections. It starts off with a high temperature and a cold with red eyes, followed by a rash which spreads from your face to the rest of your body.

It is one of the most infectious diseases in the world and can spread easily through coughing and sneezing. Young babies, pregnant women and the immunocompromised are more likely to suffer from complications due to catching measles. These serious complications can include pneumonia, encephalitis (brain infections) and sometimes even death.

WATCH: Measles signs and symptoms

How infectious is Measles?

Measles is very easy to catch. It has a very high ‘R value’, which means it can easily reach other people very quickly. Every infectious disease has an R value, so we can compare this to other diseases. The R value for…

  • Influenza is 1.7
  • COVID-19 is 3
  • The common cold is 8
  • Measles is 15

With such a high R value, it only takes a small amount of time for measles to spread from a handful of cases to thousands of cases, if there are a lot of unprotected people.

UK Health Security Agency: If no-one had immunity against Measles, one infected person could infect up to 15 others. This is the R value.

How to protect yourself and your children from measles

There is a simple, easy, safe and very effective way of protecting yourself from measles – the MMR vaccine. You can get it on the NHS for free from your GP practice.

Book a vaccine now

If your child’s vaccines are not up to date, book at the GP practice. Check your child’s Red Book if you are not sure or call the GP practice.

If you are not registered for a GP practice: find your nearest practice and get registered by checking:

For more information, visit:

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