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As American travelers go to and return from Germany for the World Cup soccer championship games, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises travelers and doctors to be aware that some travelers may have been exposed to the measles virus.
Since Jan. 1, 2006, nearly 1,200 cases of measles have been reported in the North Rhine-Westphalia region of Germany. Three of the 12 cities hosting the games -- Cologne, Dortmund and Gelsenkirchen -- are in the affected region. The CDC says it is particularly concerned about the risk posed by the World Cup because the event is expected to draw more than 1 million tourists, people will be in close proximity and the measles virus is extremely contagious. Outbreaks like this can also cause greater concern because travelers may not take as many precautions when traveling to western Europe as they would to other parts of the world. There is a possibility that Americans traveling to Germany could be exposed to measles while there.
The CDC recommends that:
-- Travelers who plan to go to Germany should check their immunization status and visit their doctors if they are not immune to measles or are not sure they are.
-- People returning from the World Cup in Germany should see a healthcare provider if they develop signs or symptoms of measles -- a fever and a raised rash that begins on the face and spreads to the arms and legs, cough, red eyes or a runny nose.
-- People with these symptoms should also limit their contact with others as much as possible to prevent the spread of the disease.
-- Clinicians seeing a patient with fever should ask about vaccination history and any recent international travel.
Measles is a highly contagious viral respiratory illness transmitted through coughing and sneezing. The disease can lead to inflammation of the brain, resulting in death in approximately 2 of every 1,000 cases in developed countries, and can be an especially severe disease in people who are malnourished or with weak immune systems. In the United States, most people born before 1957 -- or those who have had a documented case of measles or received two doses of MMR vaccine are considered immune.
Live virus measles vaccine given within 72 hours of exposure may prevent disease. Immune globulin given up to six days after exposure may prevent disease among people at high risk for complications of measles (such as pregnant women, people with weak immune systems, and children).