Travelers: Immunize Against Measles Before You Go

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Common symptoms of measles include a rash, fever, cough, runny nose, and red eyes. (U.S. CDC photo).

Public health department urges vaccination prior to international trips

Marin County Public Health is reminding residents that those planning for 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 cases have been linked 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. Seek a doctor’s advice 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. “Measles is extremely contagious and very serious. The vaccine is safe and will keep you protected for life,” said Dr. Lisa Santora, Marin County Deputy Public Health Officer. “Our vaccination rates have improved over time, but Marin has pockets of the community that are vulnerable. Even those hesitant to get a vaccine who don’t travel should consider it. Many international travelers visit Marin.”

The Philippines, Israel, India, and the Ukraine are some of the countries most affected by measles this spring, but it is still common in other parts of Europe, Asia, the Pacific, South America, and Africa. When planning a trip, take measures to protect against diseases that are more common in countries on the itinerary.

Measles immunizations are available from health care providers, pharmacies, and health clinics. Locate a place that offers the measles vaccine on Vaccine Finder or view a list of locations on the Marin County Department of Health and Human Services website.

In response to measles cases in the Bay Area, Marin County 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; strongly advising individuals who are not immune to receive the measles vaccine; consulting with local health care providers regarding suspect measles cases and helping ensure appropriate testing if indicated, and; Notifying the public through postings and local media about specific public locations where measles exposures may have occurred.

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 sick. A person with measles can spread the disease to others even before they have symptoms. A person can develop measles from seven to 21 days after being exposed to someone who is contagious with measles. Common symptoms include fever, cough, runny nose, red eyes, and a rash.

Those unsure of their immunization status or who may have had contact with someone with measles should consult a doctor. People developing symptoms of measles should to call ahead to any medical facility before going there. The facility staff needs to take measures to protect other patients and visitors. For more information about measles can be found on the Marin HHS website.

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