The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment advises people who are traveling abroad or to areas in the U.S. with ongoing measles outbreaks to ensure they are protected against the highly contagious illness.
With measles outbreaks across the country, it’s a good idea to check vaccination records to ensure protection, state health department officials said in a press release.
“It’s essential to know your vaccination or immunity status if you are planning to travel to areas where measles outbreaks have been reported,” Dr. Rachel Herlihy, state communicable disease epidemiologist, said in the release.
“Measles, once considered eliminated in the U.S., has made a comeback. As you make your plans for travel, ensure checking vaccination records is on your list. We encourage everyone, regardless of travel, to be up to date on all recommended vaccines.”
Measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine is available at doctors’ offices and many retail pharmacies. Check vaccinefinder.org to find a retail location. Area residents who need help paying for vaccinations should contact Chaffee County Public Health Department.
Children should get two doses of measles-containing vaccine (either MMR or measles-mumps-rubella-varicella (MMRV), one at age 12-15 months and a second at 4-6 years old.
While two doses of vaccine are highly effective in preventing disease, the measles virus is extremely contagious. Every year, in every community, 92-95 percent vaccination coverage with two doses of vaccine is needed to prevent outbreaks.
Infants 6-11 months old should receive one dose of MMR prior to traveling abroad. One dose of MMR also may be considered for infants traveling to certain areas in the U.S. with ongoing measles outbreaks.
Children traveling abroad or to an outbreak area who are older than 12 months can get their second dose of MMR early (rather than wait until 4-6 years old) as long as it has been four weeks since the previous dose.
Adults who received at least one dose of MMR on or after their first birthday should be protected against measles, but people in certain high-risk groups such as health care professionals, students at colleges and universities and those who plan to travel internationally should have two doses or other evidence of measles immunity.
People ages 12 months and older who don’t have evidence of measles immunity (defined as birth before 1957, a history of having measles in the past or a blood test that shows immunity) should have two doses (at least one month apart) of MMR or MMRV prior to traveling abroad.
For people with compromised immune systems, all members of their family and other close contacts who are 12 months old or older should receive two doses of MMR vaccine unless they have other evidence of measles immunity.
A previous measles vaccine, which was available from 1963 to 1967, was not as effective as the current measles vaccine, so people who were vaccinated prior to 1968 may need to be revaccinated with at least one dose of MMR.
People born before 1957 are likely to have had vaccine-preventable diseases during childhood and therefore are presumed to be protected against measles, mumps and rubella. However, people born before 1957 who belong to certain high-risk groups, including health care personnel, may need additional MMR vaccine or other proof of immunity.
If you’re unsure whether you were vaccinated or are immune to measles, you can get a blood test to find out. Talk to your health care provider about whether this is something you should do.
The early symptoms of measles are fever, runny nose, cough and red, watery eyes. Usually, one to four days after the early symptoms, a red rash appears on the face and spreads to the rest of the body. People with measles can spread the disease from four days before the rash appears until four days after it goes away.
If you are sick with these symptoms, contact a health care provider as soon as possible. Call the doctor’s office and tell them about your symptoms. To protect others, do not go inside a doctor’s office, urgent care or hospital unless instructed by your doctor.
Measles is not a mild illness. It can be serious in all age groups, but complications are most common in children younger than age 5 and adults older than age 20. Complications can include hospitalization and pneumonia. Encephalitis can occur in one of 1,000 cases, and death in one to two of 1,000 cases. Before the vaccine was widely available, 450-500 measles deaths occurred each year in the U.S.
The Centers for Disease Control has travel notices for people traveling abroad. To find out where outbreaks (three or more cases) are occurring in the U.S., visit cdc.gov/measles/cases-outbreaks.html.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Immunizations and Communicable Disease branches work to increase vaccination rates and stop the spread of vaccine-preventable diseases in Colorado. The Immunization Branch focuses on improving access to vaccinations through its Vaccines for Children Program. Learn more at colorado.gov/pacific/cdphe/measles.