Measles Protection For International Travelers

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture
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With the summer travel season at hand, the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) recommends that all Michigan residents make certain they get the measles vaccine. This is especially important for people planning international travel because the current situation in the United States is largely a result of measles outbreaks occurring elsewhere in the world. More measles cases have been reported in the U.S. this year than at any time since 2001.

"We strongly encourage people to get vaccinated for measles to help prevent the spread of this illness because that is the single best way to protect yourself from the illness," said Dr. Greg Holzman, chief medical executive for MDCH. "All travelers to other countries should make certain they have had two doses of measles vaccine, or other evidence of immunity such as previously having the disease."

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Measles cases and outbreaks in the U.S. this year have been traced to several countries in Europe, and to Israel, Japan, China, and India. With summer being a traditional travel season and the 2008 Summer Olympic Games scheduled for August in Beijing, officials point out that more opportunities exist for measles virus to be brought into the country.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 100 cases have been reported among U.S. residents so far this year. Most of these cases can be traced to measles occurring elsewhere in the world, and are the result of ill foreigners visiting the United States or susceptible U.S. travelers picking up the virus abroad and returning to infect others at home. More than 95 percent of the U.S. cases this year have occurred in unvaccinated persons.

In Michigan there have been four cases so far this year, all in the greater Cadillac area. The first case was in an unvaccinated teenager who probably picked it up while traveling. The teen then passed it on to an unvaccinated sibling. Soon after, two more cases occurred in members of their church. Michigan authorities haven't found any more cases, so far.

Initial symptoms are fever, which usually climbs above 101o F, along with coughing, runny nose, and red, teary eyes. After about three days of the initial illness, a characteristic red raised rash appears on the face and moves down to cover the body over the next several days. The rash may eventually become blotchy and may last five or more days. Complications of the illness include pneumonia, ear infections, encephalitis, seizures, and, though rare in the U.S., death.

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