March 11, 2015

Relocating? Don’t Take Measles With You!

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Mar

11

Relocating? Don’t Take Measles With You!

Measles is much in the news in the U.S. these days, and rightly so; it’s a highly contagious viral illness that was thought to have been eliminated in the U.S. in the year 2000, but recently reemerged. In 2014, 23 measles outbreaks were reported, resulting in 644 reported cases. Around the world, measles is an even bigger health issue because so many countries have not prioritized immunizations. For that reason, if you are planning to relocate any time soon, we hope the information offered here will be of assistance.

In the U.S., healthcare providers—many of whom have never seen an active case of measles—are on high alert, and the prevailing wisdom in many communities is not whether measles cases will present, but when. In either case, this is certainly a good time to review the disease’s history, symptoms, prevention, and treatment options.

Background on measles

Measles became a reportable disease in the U.S. in 1912. The first measles vaccine—which significantly reduced, but did not eliminate, outbreaks of the illness—became available in 1963. In 1989, measles outbreaks among previously vaccinated children prompted recommendations for a second dose of vaccine. This was delivered through the combined measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine. Following implementation of the second-dosage recommendation, the number of measles cases continued to decline and in the year 2000, the disease was declared “eliminated” in the U.S.

Measles relocates around the world

In addition to its recurrence in the States, measles continues to occur worldwide wherever residents are unvaccinated. Many of these outbreaks have occurred  in  countries such as UK, France, Germany, India, Philippines, and Vietnam. As of this writing, however, the U.S. has also continued to see cases: the most recent statistics show that 154 people from 17 states and Washington, D.C. were recently reported to have measles.

Despite the intra-U.S. cases, however, it is international travelers who are most susceptible to the illness because many of them have not received adequate protection via the measles vaccination. They often contract measles in other countries and bring the illness back to their home country, where they then infect others who are inadequately protected.

Who is considered protected against measles?

Administered according to Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines, the measles vaccine is highly effective. People who have received two doses of measles-containing vaccine are considered protected from the virus, and as previously stated, those born before 1957 have probably already had measles and thus, are immune.

Precautions for global travelers to take

In general, all international travelers should check with a healthcare professional to determine which, if any, vaccines or medications should be taken before or during their trip. With regard to measles, international travelers should seek the advice of a healthcare professional to determine whether they are immune to the illness, well in advance of departure to other countries—especially those in which measles outbreaks currently exist.

Check your vaccination records, if you have them; otherwise, your healthcare provider can order a lab test to determine whether you are immune.  If you are not immune or your status is uncertain, contact a healthcare professional for help in determining whether you are at risk, and if you are, seek treatment.

Staying well

Measles is a highly contagious, vaccine-preventable airborne disease that has reemerged as a serious public health concern. Worldwide eradication of the disease is dependent on vaccination programs that will eliminate the possibility of potential for the disease to spread. Additional information about measles is available on the CDC website: http://www.cdc.gov/measles

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John Fisher

About John

John Fisher, P.A., is physician assistant in Cartus’ Wellness Center in Danbury. He previously practiced occupational medicine at Corporate Health Care and worked in family practice at the Western Connecticut Medical Group in Brookfield, CT. He has been employed by Danbury Hospital as a physician assistant for 37 years.

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