Concerns about the growing measles outbreak both nationally and internationally should not discourage individuals from traveling. However, Erlanger Health System specialists say it is important to keep a few things in mind while preparing for summer travel.
Before this year’s outbreak in the United States, measles was and is still a common disease in other countries. According to the CDC, an estimated 10 million people worldwide (including U.S. residents) are infected with measles every year. Until recently, the disease has been limited in the United States due to the wide use of vaccines in our country.
“The problem arises when individuals who are not protected from the disease become infected and spread measles to other unvaccinated persons,” said Dr. Charles Woods, Chief Medical Officer for Children’s Hospital at Erlanger. “Travelers, both internationally and nationally, must now be even more aware of the risks to themselves and others if they have not been vaccinated against measles.”
This is what travelers need to know, according to Dr. Woods, who is also an infectious disease specialist. Measles is an extremely contagious disease spread by a virus through the air after an infected person coughs or sneezes. Handwashing alone is not protective. People who are infected with the disease will experience a fever, cough, runny nose, and red eyes for several days before the skin rash develops. They are contagious during this time and for four days after the rash starts.
Measles cannot be treated, but it can be prevented with the Measles, Mumps and Rubella vaccine. The CDC recommends children get two doses of MMR vaccine, starting with the first dose at 12 through 15 months of age, and the second dose at 4 through 6 years of age. Teens and adults should also be up to date on their MMR vaccination. The MMR vaccine is very safe and effective. Two doses of MMR vaccine are about 97% effective at preventing measles; one dose is about 93% effective.
Dr. Woods recommends that those who plan to travel internationally or even in the United States should:
The CDC recommends that families traveling with infants and young children get vaccinated before any international travel. Infants 6 to 11 months old need one dose of measles vaccine. Children one year old and up need two doses. The doses should be at least 28 days apart.
Families with young infants may want to consider delaying their trips until the child is old enough to be vaccinated. The dose in 6 to 11 month olds is to protect infants who may no longer have measles antibodies transmitted from their mothers during pregnancy.
As of this time, the CDC has travel warnings related to measles outbreaks in Brazil, Israel, Japan, the Philippines, and Ukraine.
For more information on measles, visit https://www.cdc.gov/features/measles/index.html.