Information about measles

What is measles? Measles is a highly contagious virus-borne disease. It is uncommon in Sweden but more common in other countries. The reason measles is rare in Sweden is that most young and middle-aged people have been vaccinated and most older people have had the disease when they were children.

It takes 7-18 days after you have been infected with measles until you get sick (this is called the incubation period). High temperature, feeling very ill, irritated eyes and avoiding light, dry cough, headache and rash in the mouth are typical initial symptoms of measles.  After 3-4 days there is a rash, usually starting on the face and spreading to the trunk, arms and legs. Subsequent infections in the ears, sinuses and lungs are common. More serious infections also occur, but are rare. Measles is most contagious before the rash is visible on the body. A few days after the rash starts, the infection is less contagious. There is no cure for measles but the symptoms can be treated, for instance, with medications that lower the temperature, cough medicines and nose drops.

Vaccination and immunity: you can’t get measles more than once!

Since 1981, every resident of Sweden has been offered two measles vaccine doses: one at age 18 months and one at age 6-12 years. If you have had these two doses, you are immune, just as if you had had measles previously, and you cannot be infected with measles.  If this is the case, there is no reason to check your immunity with blood tests.

People born before 1960 have usually had measles and are thus immune. People born between 1960 and 1981 have varying degrees of immunity. Some have been given one single vaccine dose, giving them rather good protection, while other people completely lack protection against measles.

I’m pregnant, what should I do?

Pregnant women cannot have measles vaccinations since the vaccine contains live, weakened virus.  Do what you can to find out whether you have been vaccinated or had measles! If you’re not sure, the best strategy is to avoid crowded places, for instance waiting rooms of health care facilities, public transportation and shopping centers. In some rare cases, a blood test to check immunity can be warranted.

Your partner and other people you are close to should be vaccinated for measles, at health care centers (vårdcentral) or vaccination clinics, if they aren’t absolutely sure they have been vaccinated or have had measles. The more people in a pregnant woman’s environment that are vaccinated, the lower the risk of the infection spreading.

I’m pregnant and I think I have measles or that I’ve been in contact with someone who has measles; what should I do?

Do not, under any circumstances, go to your antenatal center (barnmorskemottagning), a child health center (BVC) or a health care center (vårdcentral)!

If you go to any of these places, and you are infected with measles, you can infect many other people. Call the Health Care Information Service at 1177 or call your health care center as soon as possible to find out where you should go to get care.

If you think/know you’ve been in contact with someone who has measles, call 1177 or your health care center as soon as possible. It is possible to administer immunoglobulin in order to prevent you from getting sick, if it is given within a few days after contact with the infected person. Non-pregnant people in the vicinity should be vaccinated.

 January 10, 2018

Anna Glantz, MD Head of Antenatal Care 

Joy Ellis, MD Head of Antenatal Care

Updated: 2018-01-12 11:02