Measles is a communicable disease


Pathogen and transmission

Measles is a viral infectious disease that is feared primarily because of its complications caused by the measles virus. The highly contagious measles virus is transmitted through droplet infection when coughing or sneezing.

Clinical picture

Measles usually progresses in two episodes of illness: the first begins 7 to 18 days after infection with fever, fatigue, abdominal pain, photophobia, inflammation of the mucous membrane in the mouth and is often accompanied by coughs, runny nose and sore throat. Two to four days after the onset of symptoms, the second stage follows with a renewed rise in fever. The already existing symptoms intensify and a pronounced rash now appears.

Uncomplicated cases heal fairly quickly and without lasting consequences. However, there is a risk of developing encephalitis (= encephalitis; 1 in 1000 cases), pneumonia (= measles pneumonia; 10 to 60 in 1000 cases) or otitis media as complications. Occasionally, measles complications lead to death. There is no specific therapy against the virus. Only the symptoms can be alleviated.

Distribution and frequency

Measles is not specifically a childhood disease: it can appear at any age. Before the vaccination was introduced, measles was a childhood disease that affected almost all children worldwide. Since the introduction of the vaccination, it has fallen sharply and (with the exception of a few imported measles cases) in many regions and continents, such as in Scandinavia or in North and South America, has been made to disappear completely.

Switzerland, on the other hand, continues to register measles. In some epidemic years after 2000, this number rose to over 2000 sick people. The mortality rate from measles is still around 1 to 3 per 10,000 people in industrialized countries, in developing countries it is often 300-500 per 10,000 people, sometimes even higher.


The Federal Office of Public Health recommends vaccination against measles in combination with that against rubella and mumps. The reason for vaccinating against these three diseases is to prevent their sometimes extremely difficult disease complications. Two doses are recommended: the first at 9 months of age, the second at 12 months. A catch-up vaccination is possible at any age and is recommended for all non-immune people born after 1963. Measles risk check.

It is a very safe vaccination that is usually well tolerated. Most fully vaccinated people have lifelong protection. The World Health Organization WHO and its member states are endeavoring to eliminate (eliminate) measles in Europe through a high vaccination rate among young children.