The Travel Health and Vaccine Specialists

Global Measles Outbreak Notice

Watch – Level 1, Practice Usual Precautions

What is measles?

Caused by a highly contagious virus, measles is a disease that spreads from person to person by breathing, coughing, or sneezing. Signs and symptoms of measles include rash, high fever, and a cough, runny nose, or red, watery eyes. People can spread measles up to 4 days before and 4 days after they have a rash. Measles can lead to serious complications, such as pneumonia (infection of the lungs), and even death.

Key Points

  • Measles is in many countries and outbreaks of the disease are occurring around the world.
  • Before you travel internationally, regardless of where you are going, make sure you are protected fully against measles. If you are not sure, see your healthcare provider at least one month before your scheduled departure.

What is the current situation?

Measles outbreaks are now occurring in multiple countries around the world, meaning that the number of measles cases is higher than normal for those countries. Unvaccinated travelers infected with measles overseas have brought the disease back to the United States, causing outbreaks among unvaccinated people in their local communities.

What can travelers do to protect themselves?

Be sure you and your travel companions (infants 6 months of age and older, children, and adults) are protected fully against measles before leaving the United States.

Vaccination with a measles-containing vaccine is one way to make sure you are protected against measles. There are two measles-containing vaccines available in the United States: measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine, and measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella (MMRV) vaccine. MMRV vaccine can only be used for children aged 1 through 12 years. If you and your travel companions have received two doses of a measles-containing vaccine (and can document both of them), you have sufficient protection against the disease. You do not need any additional measles vaccines or lab work. You are also protected against measles if you have laboratory evidence of immunity, laboratory confirmation of measles disease, or if you were born before 1957.

If you are not sure if you or your travel companions are protected fully against measles, schedule an appointment to see your healthcare provider at least one month before traveling internationally.

Certain groups of people should not get measles-containing vaccines. If you or a travel companion cannot safely receive these vaccines, talk to your doctor and consider making alternative travel plans.

What can clinicians do?

Check that patients 6 months of age or older traveling internationally have presumptive evidence of immunity against measles before departure. A self-report of a vaccination or disease history is not adequate evidence of protection. Vaccinate any traveler who does not have written documentation of vaccination or other presumptive evidence of measles immunity.

Provide measles vaccine to international travelers according to CDC’s recommendations:

  1. Infants (6 through 11 months old). Give one dose of measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine. This dose does not count as the first dose in the routine childhood vaccination series.
  2. People 12 months old or older, without other presumptive evidence of measles immunity. Give two appropriately spaced doses of measles containing vaccine. (For MMR, this means administering the second dose at least 28 days after the first. For MMRV, this means administering the second dose at least 3 months after the first.)
  3. People 12 months old or older who have written documentation of one dose and no other presumptive evidence of measles immunity. One additional dose before travel.

Consider measles in the differential diagnosis of patients presenting with fever and rash, especially those who have recently traveled internationally or who have close contacts who have recently traveled.

Where are measles outbreaks occurring?

Before you travel internationally, check the destination page for your intended destination to see if there is an outbreak of measles occurring there. Countries with measles outbreaks are not the only places where infection is a risk, however. There are many countries where measles spreads routinely; some of them may have more measles cases than countries experiencing outbreaks. Airports, public transportation, and tourist attractions are also places where measles can spread. It is critical, therefore, for all international travelers to be protected against measles, regardless of their destination.

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