Making travel plans? Make sure you are immunized against measles
Public health departments urge vaccination before international travel
People planning international travel should ensure they have already received the recommended two doses of measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine. Nationwide, measles cases now total 704 in 2019, the highest since 1994. Nearly all these cases have been linked back to international travel by unvaccinated people and subsequent spread in unvaccinated populations in the U.S.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends two doses of MMR vaccine for everyone: the first dose at 12-15 months of age and the second dose at 4-6 years of age. Adults travelling internationally should get vaccinated for measles if they did not receive the two doses as children. Vaccination is the best protection against measles.
Talk to your doctor about travel immunizations at least 4-6 weeks before traveling. For those travelling internationally with a baby older than 6 months but younger than 12 months, the CDC recommends that the baby receive an early dose of MMR vaccine. Infants and young children who contract measles are at risk of serious complications. More information about recommended vaccines for travelers is located on the CDC website: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/mmr/public/index.html.
“Everyone preparing to travel internationally should consult with a health care provider to confirm their vaccination status and, if necessary, receive the MMR vaccine,” said Cassius Lockett, PhD, director of Public Health, Policy, and Planning at San Mateo County Health. “The vaccine is safe and effective and is critical to ensuring that you, your family, and your community are protected against measles.”
Measles is still common in many parts of the world in Europe, Asia, the Pacific, South America, and Africa, including the Philippines, Israel, India, and the Ukraine. If you are planning a trip, protect yourself against diseases that are more common in the country you are visiting.
Measles immunizations are available at your health care provider, local pharmacy, or health clinic. Locate a place that offers the measles vaccine on Vaccine Finder: https://vaccinefinder.org/.
In response to measles cases in the Bay Area, San Mateo County Health has implemented strategies to control the spread of this disease, including:
- Identifying people who may have been exposed to measles and ensuring they are immune to measles.
- Preventing possible spread of measles to others by limiting activities of people who are not immune and who may have been exposed.
- Isolating people who are infectious to prevent the spread of measles to others.
- Strongly advising individuals who are not immune to receive the measles vaccine.
Measles is so contagious that if one person has it, up to 90 percent of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected. A person with measles can spread the disease to others even before they have any symptoms. A person develops measles from 7 to 21 days after being exposed to someone who is contagious with measles. Common symptoms of measles include fever, cough, runny nose, red eyes, and a rash.
If you are unsure of your immunization status or may have had contact with someone with measles, consult with your doctor. It is very important to call ahead to any medical facility before going there and tell them that you may have been exposed to measles, so that the facility can take measures to protect other patients and visitors.