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Travelling to Europe? Make sure you are immunized against measles

The BC Centre for Disease Control advises British Columbians to review their immunization status prior to travel.
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Since January 2016, measles cases have been reported in 37 European countries. The largest outbreaks were in Romania, Italy, and Germany, and most cases were unvaccinated. Countries in other continents (China, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Laos, Mongolia, Philippines, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Thailand, Vietnam, among others) also reported measles outbreaks between 2016 and 2017.

Measles has been eliminated in the Americas, and all recent cases of measles in Canada have been imported from other regions of the world or are related to imported cases. 

Most British Columbians are immune to measles. Measles vaccine is given as the combined measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and the recommended childhood immunization schedule in BC is for two doses given at 12 months of age and at school entry (4-6 years of age). Babies traveling to parts of the world where measles is common should be immunized as early as 6 months of age with 1 dose of MMR vaccine to provide them with some protection, as measles can be especially serious in infants.  After their return to Canada, they will require an additional two doses after the first birthday for full protection. 

You are most at risk of measles infection if you are completely unvaccinated against measles and have never had measles disease. If you are born on or after 1970, to be protected against measles you should have received two doses of measles containing vaccine (often given as combined measles, mumps and rubella vaccine or MMR). Those born prior to 1970 are assumed to be immune due to prior measles infection, but if you are in this age group and have never had measles, you can be immunized regardless of your age; 1 dose of MMR vaccine is recommended.

If you do not have proof of vaccination or have never had measles disease, BCCDC recommends that you are immunized with the MMR vaccine at least two weeks before traveling to areas where measles is circulating. You can find a map of reported measles cases worldwide on the World Health Organization website.

Measles is a highly infectious disease transmitted by airborne spread. The incubation period (time to develop symptoms after being exposed) for measles is about 10 days but ranges from 7 – 21 days. Symptoms include fever, cough, runny nose, and red eyes, followed by a rash that starts centrally including on the face and spreads to the limbs and lasts at least three days. Measles can be a serious infection and is very infectious to others.

More Information about measles can be found at 

If you think you have been exposed to measles, you should watch for symptoms of measles for up to 21 days (three weeks) after exposure. If you become ill with any of the above symptoms and fever, and suspect you may have measles, call your doctor and inform them that you may have been exposed to measles. Your doctor will arrange to see you in a manner that avoids infecting other patients in the waiting room. 

The best time to protect yourself is before you travel. For more information see
BC Centre for Disease Control; measles; Health alert



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