The record number of measles cases in Europe, the most visited destination in the world, puts both international travelers and non-traveling U.S. residents at risk from the disease, according to a report in the AAP’s July 2019 Pediatrics.
Authors of the special article, “Spread of Measles in Europe and Implications for US Travelers,” said low vaccination coverage during previous years is the biggest factor fueling the rise in measles outbreaks. From January to June of 2018, World Health Organization European region countries reported more than 41,000 measles cases, including 37 deaths — the most since the 1990s. Ukraine reported the majority of cases, but France, Georgia, Greece, Italy, the Russian Federation, and Serbia also were among outbreak countries with especially high numbers.
Measles is highly contagious, and the virus may spread to inadequately vaccinated travelers, as well as to non-traveling US residents who come into contact with travelers who are ill when they return. Report authors said health care providers should highly suspect measles among travelers returning from Europe or people with close contact with international travelers who develop a fever and rash. They encourage travelers who feel ill after returning home from Europe to seek health care immediately.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that that U.S. travelers receive all recommended vaccinations, including measles, before traveling abroad. Standard measles vaccination includes two doses: one given at 12-15 months of age, and the second at 4-6 years of age. In addition, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends that travelers between 6 and 11 months of age receive an early, additional dose if traveling to measles endemic countries. Families should discuss with healthcare providers the risk of international travel with infants under 6 months of age.