The CDC (centers for disease control) has now issued notices to warn people who are traveling to Europe about the risk for measles exposure. Measles outbreaks are occurring in England, France, Italy Greece and Germany. (https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices/watch/measles-global).
Measles cases in Europe topped 41,000 in the first half of 2018 and included 37 deaths, with the highest incidence in children less than 1 year of age. This is more than twice as many reported annually between 2010 and 2017!! As in the U.S., low immunization rates are responsible for the rise. The popularity and ease of traveling to and from Europe accounts for many measles cases in the U.S.
In the U.S., measles cases have just exceeded 1000 which seems minimal compared to Europe even though it’s still quite high. The problem is that children who are unvaccinated are at risk while at home, but even more so when traveling to areas with continued measles circulation.
If you are traveling to Europe, consider:
1. Review your immunizations to assess the need for additional vaccinations. If you were born in 1957 or later then you should
get a measles titer to see if you still carry immunity to this virus.
2. Infants should be vaccinated starting at age 6 months if traveling to areas with measles outbreak.
3. Infants less than 6 months should delay travel until the child reaches 6 months of age.
4. Children over the age of 1 year should receive two-measles containing vaccines separated by at least 28 days prior to travel.
5. If you have traveled to these areas and develop a fever and rash, contact your health practitioner ASAP.
Although I understand the divided opinions about vaccines to be a real issue, I often stress to my patients when they are at significant risk for contracting the illness. This would be it!
Measles is a very contagious respiratory disease that spreads through the air by coughing or sneezing. Symptoms don’t appear until 10-14 days after exposure, so you could be a carrier and spread this virus and not know it. Complications include ear infections, pneumonia, encephalitis (brain infection) and problems during pregnancy. There are no treatments to this virus except treating symptoms with over the counter remedies to help discomfort. Those at highest risk are young children and the elderly. Don’t take chances and please talk to your practitioner about prevention through a vaccine.
Reference: Angelo KM et al. Spread of measles in Europe and implications for US travelers. Pediatrics 2019 Jul 1; 144e20190414