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What is the measles virus?

Page last updated 19 January 2022

Measles is a highly contagious infection caused by a virus known as Morbillivirus. It causes a skin rash, which usually begins on the face and the spreads down to cover the entire body, and flu-like symptoms, including 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. 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. Australian Government Department of Health. The Australian Immunisation Handbook. Measles. Available at: (accessed December 2021).

2. NSW Government. Measles Fact Sheet. Available at: (accessed December 2021).

3. Victoria State Government. Better Health Channel. Measles. Available at: (accessed December 2021).

8. National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance. Measles vaccines for Australians. Available at: (accessed December 2021).


MAT-AU-2102479  Date of preparation January 2022