Friday, April 18, 2008

Are you protected from measles?

With spring comes the Jewish holiday of Passover, when many Americans travel to Israel. This year, however, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is giving some advice to travelers: Make sure you have a measles shot so you don’t get sick!

Since September 2007, more than 900 cases of measles have been reported in Israel, with nearly 700 cases in the cities of Jerusalem and Beit Shemesh. CDC is recommending that travelers planning to go to Israel this month check their immunization status and consult with their doctor to make sure that they are vaccinated against the disease. Any travelers who become ill with a fever or other measles-like symptoms should visit a medical professional before they return to the United States. It is also good to limit any contact with other people as much as possible, because measles is very contagious and can be spread easily through coughing and sneezing.

While measles is no longer common in the United States, outbreaks still occur. Just this year, Arizona experienced nine cases of the disease, while San Diego reported 11 cases. Both outbreaks were traced to travelers who had recently spent time in Switzerland, where there was a large outbreak of measles. The travelers carried the illness back with them to the United States, leading to the rise in cases.

Don't forget to stay up to date on all of your vaccinations — not just measles — especially if you are traveling to different parts of the world where other infectious diseases are common. You never know when the next germ will sneak up on you if you're unprepared!

Photo courtesy CDC Public Health Image Library. This health marketing material was used to promote U.S. measles vaccinations during the 1960s. Before the measles vaccine became available in 1963, there were approximately 3 million to 4 million cases, and an average of 450 deaths a year in the United States, according to CDC. More than half the population had measles by the time they were 6 years old, and 90 percent had the disease by the time they were 15.

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