Traveling this spring or summer? Measles may be just a plane ride away

infographic-measles-contagiousMeasles is one of the most highly contagious diseases in the world. It is just a plane ride away, and sometimes you don’t even have to get on a plane. We have seen several recent reports about people in airports in other states being exposed to measles after an infected person traveled through. As you might be traveling for spring break or making summer vacation travel plans, it’s important to make sure your measles vaccination is up to date.

What is the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones?

Measles is a vaccine-preventable disease. Getting an MMR immunization, which protects you against measles, mumps, and rubella, is the best way to protect yourself and your family, as well as your friends and community.

infographic-travel-checklistWho should get the vaccine?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer – if you are traveling, you should talk to your doctor about whether your family members already are immune or need to be vaccinated. And if you are traveling outside the country, you should definitely have this conversation before you go. Most measles cases brought into the United States come from U.S. residents traveling abroad.

Otherwise, all children should get one dose of vaccine when they are 12-15 months old and a second dose when they are 4 to 6 years old before they begin school. All school-aged children and students entering college should have received two doses of the MMR vaccine. And adults born after 1956 who aren’t immune should receive at least one dose of the vaccine. Adult healthcare workers and international travelers should receive two doses. Babies may receive the vaccine as early as 6 months if they are traveling internationally.

Who should not get it?

As always, we recommend you talk to your doctor. But generally, pregnant women shouldn’t receive it because it is a live, attenuated vaccine. Also, people with health conditions that severely suppress their immune symptoms can’t get the vaccine. This would include people who have AIDS, leukemia or other cancers of the bone marrow or lymphatic system, or who are receiving immunosuppressive therapy.

But people who get the vaccine can protect people who can’t get the vaccine. Can you explain how that works?

Very simply, if a person travels out of the country and comes back with a case of the measles and everyone that person comes into contact with is immune, there is no transmission of the virus. It stops there, and there is no outbreak because it can’t spread.

However, if one or two people are not immune or haven’t been vaccinated, then the virus gets a foothold and spreads. Measles, which is very contagious, travels through the air after an infected person coughs or sneezes, and 90 percent of people who are not immune will become infected if they come into contact with someone who has the disease.

What happens if or when we do get a case in the state?

Local public health teams will investigate it immediately to find out where the person was infected, who they might have spread it to, and who needs to be protected. Local and state public health officials also will warn the public so they can take measures to protect themselves. They also monitor symptoms and offer vaccinations.

A Closer Look at Your Health airs weekly on KBOI AM 670 in Boise; this is a transcript of the March 27, 2018 program. 

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