Measles vaccine is especially important for people planning to travel anywhere outside the U.S. Travelers to other countries should make certain they have had two doses of measles vaccine, or other evidence of immunity such as previously having the disease.
Anyone born before 1957 is considered immune to measles and does not need the vaccine, however, “We strongly encourage people to get vaccinated against measles because that is the single best way to protect yourself from the illness,” said Joshua Meyerson, M.D., Medical Director for the Health Department of Northwest Michigan.
Measles cases and outbreaks in the U.S. this year have been traced to several countries in Europe, and to Israel, Japan, China, and India. With summer being a traditional travel season and the 2008 Summer Olympic Games scheduled for August in Beijing, Meyerson points out that more opportunities exist for measles virus to be brought into the country.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) & Prevention, more than 100 cases have been reported among U.S. residents so far this year. Most of these cases can be traced to measles occurring elsewhere in the world, and are the result of ill foreigners visiting the United States or susceptible U.S. travelers picking up the virus abroad and returning to infect others at home. More than 95% of the U.S. cases this year have occurred in unvaccinated persons.
In Michigan there have been four cases so far this year, all in the greater Cadillac area. The first case was in an unvaccinated teenager who probably picked it up while traveling. The teen then passed it on to an unvaccinated sibling. Soon after, two more cases occurred in members of their church. Michigan authorities haven't found any more cases, so far.
Initial symptoms of measles are fever, which usually climbs above 101º F, along with coughing, runny nose, and red, teary eyes. After about three days of the initial illness, a characteristic red raised rash appears on the face and moves down to cover the body over the next several days. The rash may eventually become blotchy and may last five or more days.
Complications of measles include pneumonia, ear infections, encephalitis, seizures, and, though rare in the U.S., death.
The Health Department of Northwest Michigan is mandated by the Michigan Public Health Code to promote wellness, prevent disease, provide quality healthcare, address health problems of vulnerable populations, and protect the environment for the residents and visitors of Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego counties. For additional general information about measles and measles vaccine, contact your health care provider or visit http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/measles/default.htm. Important information for summer 2008 international travel is available at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/contentVaccinesSummer2008.aspx.