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What is the measles virus?

Page last updated 26 June 2018

Measles, is a highly contagious infection that's caused by a particular virus, known as Morbillivirus. It causes a skin rash (that usually begins on the face and the spreads down to cover the entire body) and flu-like symptoms, including a fever, cough, and runny nose. 

Measles can be a severe illness – serious complications are much more common in young children (under 5 years of age), in the chronically ill and in adults. In fact, 60% of deaths from measles are caused by the development of pneumonia (especially in the young), and from encephalitis (brain swelling), particularly in adults.  Measles during pregnancy can cause miscarriage, premature labour, and/or babies may have a low birth weight. In a small number of cases, measles may also be fatal.

Sources & Citations

  1. The Australian Immunisation Handbook 10th Edition, 4.9 Measles. Available at (accessed 7 April 2018).
  2. Australian Government, Department of Health, Australia’s notifiable disease status, 2014: Annual report of the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System (main page). Available at (accessed 7 April 2018).

SPANZ.SAPAS.18.04.0133a - Date of preparation May 2018