ABC Guide to Travel Health - Vaccines, Vaccinations

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Measles is a highly contagious infection caused by the measles virus. Before the availability of an effective vaccine, measles affected most people before they were teenagers. Measles usually presents with a fever, cough, runny nose and eye infections.4 The rash follows, typically beginning on the face and upper neck, and then becoming generalised. Measles is often a severe disease, frequently complicated by middle-ear infection and pneumonia.4 Rare complications can lead to brain damage and death.4 Although immunisation programs have significantly reduced the global burden of measles, the disease still causes up to 875,000 deaths annually, mostly in developing countries.35a

Transmission is from person-to-person, mainly by infected airborne droplets from coughs and sneezes.

Geographical distribution
Measles occurs worldwide, and occurs in a seasonal pattern. Transmission increases during the late winter and early spring in temperate climates, and after the rainy season in tropical climates. Relatively few cases now occur in developed countries. However, virus transmission still occurs in most developing countries, especially in Asia and Africa , and imported infection has been responsible for outbreaks in Australia.35a,35b

See measles distribution map

Risk for travellers35a
Travellers who are not fully immunised against measles are at risk of infection when visiting developing countries.

Precautions and prevention7
Vaccination. Persons born during or since 1966 should be encouraged to have measles/mumps/rubella ( MMR ) vaccine before embarking on international travel, if they have not had 2 doses of the vaccine in the past. Infants travelling to endemic countries can start vaccination between the ages of 9 and 12 months, if necessary. In these cases, another dose should be given at 12 months of age or 4 weeks after the first dose, whichever is later. This should be followed by the standard dose of MMR at the fourth birthday.

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