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With the peak summer travel season under way, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is reminding travelers to Europe and other global destinations to take steps to protect themselves against measles amid outbreaks of the disease.
More than 14,000 cases of measles have been reported in Europe since January 2016, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. In the past year, 35 people across Europe have died from the disease, according to the World Health Organization.
“Most measles cases in the United States are the result of international travel,” said Gary Brunette, MD, MPH, chief of CDC’s travelers’ health program. “Travelers get infected while abroad and bring the disease home. This can cause outbreaks here in the United States.”
Measles cases have been reported in 15 European countries in 2017: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
CDC has issued travel health notices for five European countries with measles outbreaks since November 2016; the most recent was France on July 7. The others are Belgium, Germany, Italy and Romania.
The CDC recommends that anyone who isn’t protected against measles, either through vaccination or past infection, should get vaccinated, including before international travel. This simple step protects both travelers and people back home. Travelers should see their health care professional at least 4-6 weeks before any international travel. You may need this much time to complete a vaccine series, and your body needs time to build up immunity.
Measles is one of the most contagious of all infectious diseases; approximately 9 out of 10 susceptible persons with close contact to a measles patient will develop measles. The virus spreads when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The virus can live for up to two hours in the air or on surfaces. People with measles usually have a rash, high fever, cough, runny nose, and red, watery eyes. Some people also get an ear infection, diarrhea, or a serious lung infection such as pneumonia. Although severe cases are rare, measles can cause swelling of the brain and death.
Any international travelers coming to the United States who develop measles symptoms should contact a doctor immediately.
To learn more about measles vaccine recommendations, visit CDC’s Measles Vaccination page (https://www.cdc.gov/measles/vaccination.html).
For more information about measles symptoms, prevention and travel precautions, visit CDC’s Measles for Travelers page (https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/diseases/measles).