If you’re planning a trip to Europe, there is one item you should include on your “To Do” list before you leave. The U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is warning U. S. citizens to get vaccinated against the measles before traveling to Europe.
In 2017, 15 European countries have reported measles cases, and since January 2016, more than 14,000 people in Europe have been infected resulting in 35 children dying from the virus. The 15 European countries reporting measles cases include Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.
Although many people view measles as a routine childhood disease, it can actually be quite serious for those who are not immune to the virus, especially those who have compromised immune systems and the very young who cannot yet be vaccinated against the virus.
A recent study done at Massachusetts General Hospital found more than 50% of U. S. travelers to Europe were not protected from the measles virus, either through past exposure or vaccination. Study author and infectious disease specialist Emily Hyle, M.D. from Massachusetts General explained, “Measles is incredibly contagious. Ninety percent of non-immune individuals will become ill with measles if they’re exposed. And that exposure can be as minimal as walking into a room up until two hours after somebody infected with measles has been there.”
Measles is typically spread when a person infected with the virus coughs or sneezes, and symptoms usually appear within 7 to 14 days. Typical symptoms include rash, high fever, runny nose, cough, and watery eyes although in some cases, the virus can cause serious lung infections, brain swelling and even death.
The CDC strongly recommends contacting your healthcare provider to schedule the MMR vaccine series if you’re traveling to Europe and not immune from the virus either through past exposure or vaccination. The CDC recommends getting the vaccine at least 4 to 6 weeks before you’re planning to travel to give your body time to build up immunity before arriving in Europe.
Although you will want to share your European adventure with family and friends, bringing home the measles should not be part of the experience.