International Travellers Vaccinated Against Measles

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The province will provide measles vaccine free-of-charge to Albertans born in or after 1970 travelling to countries where there are measles outbreaks.

Outbreaks of measles in a number of European countries, as well as Africa and Asia have prompted the Public Health Agency of Canada to issue a travel alert recommending individuals travelling to areas reporting measles activity be immunized against measles. In response, the Alberta government will provide the vaccine to anyone 38-years-of-age or younger travelling to the affected regions and who has not previously received two doses of the MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella) vaccine.

Typically, Alberta travellers have been offered the MMR vaccine on a cost-recovery basis. For the next six months, the province will fully fund the vaccine for those whose age and travel destinations put them at higher risk for contracting measles.

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"Measles is a highly contagious disease and is the leading cause of vaccine-preventable deaths in children worldwide," said Dr. Karen Grimsrud, Acting Chief Medical Officer of Health for Alberta. "It can easily be imported from areas affected by the disease by individuals who are susceptible. In fact, two cases of measles recently reported in Calgary were linked to a trip to Africa. The best way to prevent the spread of infection is through immunization."

MMR vaccine is provided to children through the province's routine immunization program when they are one year of age, and prior to entering kindergarten. Two doses are necessary to ensure long-term immunity. Given that the outbreaks in other areas could lead to more cases in Alberta, parents are encouraged to ensure their children's immunizations are up-to-date.

The two-dose vaccine schedule was introduced in 1996-97. Adults born in or after 1970 may not have received the second dose. These individuals need to ensure they have had two doses before travelling to places where measles disease is present.

Symptoms of measles include fever, cough, runny nose, conjunctivitis (red eyes), and rash. Complications include diarrhea, ear infection, pneumonia, encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) and death.

To book an appointment for immunization, contact your local public health unit.

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