Don’t let measles be your travel souvenir

July 15th, 2019  |  Travel

Measles continues to make headlines around the world and its spread also raises red flags for travellers.

It’s an issue that received heightened attention recently, when a confirmed case of measles aboard a Church of Scientology cruise ship resulted in a quarantine at the port of St. Lucia in the Caribbean. The 300 passengers and crew members aboard were ordered to remain inside the ship Freewinds after a female crew member was found to have contracted the disease.

"We thought it prudent that we quarantine the ship…" Dr. Merlene Fredericks-James, the island nation's chief medical officer, said in a statement posted on YouTube. "We have been listening to the alerts from the Pan American Health Organization. There are outbreaks of measles (in the United States) largely because persons have not taken the vaccine."

The ship was subsequently quarantined again in its home port of Curaco, when 28 people had to stay on board for additional days because they were still at risk of contracting measles. The remaining passengers were allowed to leave because they were not a threat anymore.

Highly contagious

The disease, which spreads through coughing and sneezing, is a spotted body rash accompanied by high fever. It can be deadly, particularly for children under the age of 5. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), measles is so contagious that if one person has it, up to 90 per cent of the people close to them who are not immune will also become infected.

Read More:Measles symptoms and causes

The flare-ups are attributed to the anti-vaccination movement, which has proliferated online and falsely claims that the measles vaccine causes autism. Outbreaks have largely been blamed on non-vaccinated travellers.

On July 8 the CDC recorded 14 more measles cases, raising the year's total number of cases in the U.S. to 1,109. This year's case count is the highest there since 1992, and since measles was declared eliminated in 2000. As of June 22, Canada had recorded 72 cases.

These rising numbers – and risk of infection - are part of the reason people need to know if their travel insurance will cover them should they get sick. Know your policy!

According to industry insurance experts, travellers that are not vaccinated may invalidate their insurance should they fall ill. They may also be out of pocket for any treatment they require overseas.

The best way to protect yourself, loved ones and the health of others is by getting vaccinated. The measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine protects against all three diseases. Two doses of MMR vaccine provide 97 per cent protection against measles.

Tips for travellers

The CDC recommends these tips for travellers:

  • Before you travel, check the CDC travel notices on measles
  • Infants 6 months through 11 months of age should receive one dose of MMR vaccine.*
  • Children 12 months of age and older should receive two doses of MMR vaccine separated by at least 28 days.
  • Teenagers and adults who do not have evidence of immunity against measles should get two doses of MMR vaccine separated by at least 28 days.

*Infants who get one dose of MMR vaccine before their first birthday should get two more doses according to the routinely recommended schedule (one dose at 12 through 15 months of age and another dose at 4 through 6 years of age or at least 28 days later).

Related reading:

Canadian public health notices

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