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CDC Urges International Travelers to Get Measles Vaccine

June 22, 2023 – The CDC is urging people to ensure they are vaccinated against measles before summer travel. International travelers are particularly at risk, the CDC said, noting that 88% of all cases in the U.S. so far this year are linked to international travel.

“Based on current estimates, twice as many Americans are planning to travel internationally in 2023 compared with 2022,” according to the advisory published Wednesday. “Many countries and popular travel destinations, such as London, England, have experienced measles outbreaks in recent years.”

Measles is so contagious that 9 out of 10 unvaccinated people who come in contact with someone with measles will contract the viral illness, which can remain in the air or on surfaces for 2 hours after an infected person leaves an area. One vaccine dose is 93% effective at prevention, and two doses are 97% effective.

Measles symptoms include a fever, cough, runny nose, and rash, but severe cases can cause pneumonia, encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), and death.

A 4-month-long outbreak of measles in Ohio ended in February after 85 children were infected, 80 of whom were unvaccinated. The others were partially vaccinated or didn’t have documented vaccinations. Thirty-six of the children had to be hospitalized, and 61 of them were 2 years old or younger.

The recommended timing and number of measles vaccine doses for international travelers vary in some cases, compared to guidelines for people who only travel domestically. The CDC said international travelers should consult their doctor several weeks beforehand to discuss vaccinations. For infants and very young children who will be traveling internationally, measles vaccines are needed earlier and closer together than the usual pediatric vaccine schedule, the CDC said. 

“After international travel, you should watch for signs and symptoms of measles for 3 weeks after you return to the United States,” the CDC instructed travelers in the advisory. “If you or your child gets sick with a rash and a high fever, call your doctor. Tell them you traveled abroad and whether you or your child have received MMR vaccine.”

Last year, there were 121 cases of measles reported to the CDC. So far this year, there have been 16 cases. Two people from the same household in California tested positive this week, NBC News reported. 

“These cases are reminders of the critical role of vaccinations in protecting the community,” Rais Vohra, MD, the health officer for Fresno County, CA, told the news outlet.  “We urge all parents to please work with your pediatrician or contact the health department to help get your child up-to-date on vaccinations.”

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