Measles in Africa
Updated: January 11, 2019
- Sierra Leone has been added to the list of countries reporting a measles outbreak.
Original publication date: December 13, 2018
African countries currently reporting measles outbreaks are:
- Democratic Republic of Congo
- Sierra Leone
Measles is a highly contagious disease. It can spread quickly from person to person by direct contact and through droplets in the air.
Early symptoms of measles include small, white spots inside the mouth and throat. After 3 to 7 days, a red blotchy rash develops on the face and spreads down the body. Measles can be contagious from 4 days before until 4 days after the rash appears.
Measles is one of the leading causes of death in young children. Measles circulates in most regions of the world including Africa, Asia and Europe.
Measles does not naturally circulate in Canada; however cases have been reported in travellers to Canada from countries where measles is a concern. An infected traveller can spread measles to groups of people who are not vaccinated and cause an outbreak in Canada. Travellers are at an increased risk of measles infection if they:
- have not had measles, or
- have not received the age appropriate recommended doses of the measles vaccine
Consult a health care professional or visit a travel health clinic 6 weeks before you travel.
Get vaccinated for measles
The most important thing you can do to protect yourself from getting the measles is to be vaccinated. In Canada, the measles vaccine is part of our routine immunization schedule. Travellers should make sure their measles vaccination is up-to-date, regardless of their travel destination:
- Infants (6 months to 12 months of age):
- The vaccine is routinely given between 12 and 15 months. During outbreaks or if you are travelling to regions where measles is a concern, it may be given as early as 6 months of age. If this is the case, the routine two dose series must be restarted on or after the first birthday. A total of three doses are given.
- Children/adolescents (12 months to 17 years of age):
- Two doses of the vaccine are recommended. The first dose should be given between 12-15 months of age. The second dose should be given at 18 months of age or any time thereafter (typically before school entry).
- Travellers should make sure that they have received one dose of the vaccine; or
- Adults (18 years of age and older) born BEFORE 1970 :
- have laboratory evidence of immunity (e.g. through blood testing); or
- are considered immune due to a history of laboratory-confirmed measles disease.
- Adults (18 years of age and older) born in 1970 or AFTER:
- Travellers should make sure that they have received two doses of the measles vaccine.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available. Keep a bottle with you when you travel.
Practise proper cough and sneeze etiquette
- Cover your mouth and nose with your arm to reduce the spread of germs.
- Dispose of tissues as soon as possible after use, and wash your hands.
Monitor your health
- See a healthcare professional if you develop symptoms of measles when travelling or after you return to Canada:
- Alert the health care professional about your symptoms before your appointment, so they can take proper precautions.
- Tell the health care professional which countries you have visited.
- Avoid close contact with other people to reduce the chance of infecting others if you:
- have symptoms of measles
- have been exposed to someone who has measles
- If you notice symptoms of measles during the flight, tell the flight attendant before you land or the border services officer as you enter the country. They will notify a quarantine officer who can assess your symptoms.
Registration of Canadians Abroad
Sign up with the Registration of Canadians Abroad (ROCA) service to stay connected with the Government of Canada in case of an emergency abroad or an emergency at home.Related links
- About Measles
- Sickness or injury when travelling
- If you get sick after travelling
- Travel vaccinations
- Public Health Agency of Canada: Canadian Immunization Guide
- World Health Organisation: Measles fact sheet
- European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control: Epidemiological updates on measles outbreaks in Europe