Traveling this summer? Update your vaccines before you go


As you finalize your summer travel plans, add checking your measles vaccination to your “to do” list.

The disease was declared eliminated in 2000 after decades of vaccination efforts around the globe. In the last 20 years though, as some parents have refused to give their children the vaccine, the disease has seen resurgence, reaching outbreak levels in several nations and U.S. states.

For travelers who spend just a few minutes in a room where someone carrying the measles virus has been, that minute may be long enough to catch the disease.

“The measles virus is respiratory, a droplet can remain alive in a room for two hours, depending on the ventilation, and that respiratory droplet is very contagious,” said Karen Landers, M.D., F.A.A.P, Alabama Department of Public Health.

“Studies have shown that if you’ve never been vaccinated and you are exposed you have a 90 percent chance of getting the disease,” she said. “These studies really underscore the importance of people being vaccinated appropriately.”

Currently the Centers for Disease Control warn American travelers to vaccinate before boarding plans to Brazil, Israel, Japan, Philippines and the Ukraine where widespread outbreaks have occurred.

But travelers merely hopping in the family van and heading to Disney, or any other U.S. location, need to be vaccinated as well. From Jan. 1 to May 3, 2019, 764 individual cases of measles were confirmed in 23 states. This is an increase of 60 cases from the previous week. This is the greatest number of cases reported in the U.S. since 1994 and since measles was declared eliminated in 2000.

In Alabama, a 5-month-old infant in St. Clair county, who was still too young to receive the vaccine, also tested positive. As of May 1 the Alabama Department of Public Health had 32 open investigations for measles.

Doctors recommend children receive the first of two doses of the MMR vaccine, which protects against measles, mumps and rubella between 12 – 15 months of age. The second dose is given between the ages of 4 and 6. The current vaccination schedule became routine in 1989. Prior to that, a single dose was given, beginning in 1963.

The CDC reports that one dose is about 93 percent effective at preventing infection, while two doses give patients a 97 percent chance of protection.

Landers said adults who don’t know if they were vaccinated, should get the vaccination, just in case. An extra dose, she said, will not harm the patient.

“There may be many people who don’t have documentation or access to their medical records from that long ago so they may not know,” Landers said. “There is no harm in receiving the MMR again, just to be certain.”

Currently, immunization clinics around the state focus on reduce fee immunizations for children. There are a limited number of MMR vaccines available for adults.

If you need a vaccine, check first with your family doctor to see if insurance or Medicaid will pay. A limited number of vaccines are available at the Baldwin County Health Department, located at 23280 Gilbert Drive in Robertsdale. The vaccine costs $84.71 and there is a $15 administration charge.