Health & Safety Department


Information on measles – 12th September 2019

Information for staff and students

Measles is a highly infectious disease that can lead to serious ill health consequences. There has been a significant increase in cases of measles across the world due to gaps in vaccination coverage and there have been recent confirmed cases in Edinburgh and the Lothians.  Cases of measles in our local community are monitored by the Health Protection Team at NHS Lothian who provide the University with advice and support on potential public health issues.

Signs and Symptoms

The initial symptoms of measles develop around 10 days after contact with an affected person. These can include:

  • Fever
  • cold-like symptoms, (runny nose, sneezing, cough)
  • sore, red eyes that may be sensitive to light
  • small greyish-white spots on the inside of the cheeks
  • A red blotchy rash which starts at the head spreading over the chest and limbs. The rash generally fades within ten days. 

If you develop symptoms suggestive of measles, you should contact your General Practitioner for further advice by phone (or NHS 24 if out of hours on tel. 111). This is very important in order to avoid someone with measles sitting in a waiting room with other patients who may be very vulnerable to the effects of a measles infection.  

 If you develop symptoms, please also keep yourself away from other people (especially avoid attending gatherings, lectures, parties, public transport etc.) until you know for sure whether you have immunity to measles.

(You should of course be alert for other illnesses such as meningitis and septicaemia which can also cause a rash.  Should you become seriously ill then call 999 in the usual way.) 

Vulnerable Groups

Some people are at greater risk of complications of measles. These include pregnant women, babies under 18 months and people who have weakened immune systems, for example due to illness or treatments such as steroids or chemotherapy. 

 If you fall into one of these categories, it is important that you contact your midwife or GP as you may require urgent investigation or treatment. 

Complications (infrequent)

Measles can be unpleasant, but will usually pass in about 7 to 10 days without causing any further problems. Once you have had measles, your body builds up resistance (immunity) to the virus and it's unlikely you'll get it again.

But it can lead to serious and potentially life-threatening complications in some people.

How is measles spread?

Measles is spread through coughing and sneezing, close personal contact or direct contact with respiratory droplets such as on tissues or hands. 

Measles is highly infectious. Face to face contact or spending 15 minutes in the same room with a person infected with measles is enough to pass on the virus. 

People with measles are infectious from around five days before the rash appears and until four days after the rash appears. 

A person with measles symptoms should stay away from work or university for at least four days after the rash first appears to reduce the risk of spreading the infection.  They should also limit their contact with other people during this time.


There are several things you can do to help relieve your symptoms and reduce the risk of spreading the infection.

These include:

  • taking paracetamol or ibuprofen to relieve fever, aches and pains 

  • drinking plenty of water to avoid dehydration
  • closing the curtains to help reduce light sensitivity
  • using damp cotton wool to clean the eyes
  • staying off university for at least 4 days from when the rash first appears

If you are concerned that you may have contracted measles then you should NOT attend work or university and advice should be sought from your GP by telephone.  If it’s after 5pm call NHS24 on 111.

Medical/Nursing students must not attend placements in healthcare premises if they think they have measles.


The best protection against measles is to have two MMR vaccinations.  The MMR is a safe and effective combined vaccine that protects against three separate illnesses - measles, mumps and rubella (German measles).  In the UK children are routinely vaccinated with MMR in childhood, at 13 months of age and pre-school age.

If you have not received two doses of MMR then the course can be finished at any time.

If you need to check your immunisation status or if you would like to receive the MMR vaccination, you should contact your own GP practice.

New Students

The University encourages all students to protect themselves against meningitis and septicaemia, and measles, mumps, and rubella before they arrive at the University. This is provided free of charge via GPs.

International students arriving in the UK for the first time, should register with a GP (doctor) and ask for these vaccinations.

Information on the vaccinations and immunisations students are advised to have before they arrive at University -

Information on Registering with a Doctor (General Practitioner) in Scotland 

You need to register with a General Practitioner (GP) when you arrive in the UK. Do not wait until you are ill or require treatment to register.  Registering with a GP is easy and free.

Register with a doctor

New to Lothian? Know who you can turn to for healthcare

Further Information

Measles (NHS)


MMR Vaccine (NHS)

Meningitis vaccine (NHS)