Many patients have been coming to my office bringing their young children for well child checks and complaining that due to the measles outbreak, they are opting not to travel. Here is some advice for those who don’t want measles to stand in the way of vacation.
- Give the vaccine early– If your child is not yet one years old, you don’t have to wait until his or her first birthday to vaccinate. One dose of the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine can be given early between 6-11 months of age. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), one dose of the vaccine provides 93% protection against the measles. This is better than no protection at all. The second dose of the MMR provides 97% protection.
- I’m planning a trip, what do I need to know about measles? The best way to protect yourself against the measles is to be vaccinated. Check the CDC’s travel advisory at https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/ /noticesprior to travel. If you are going to an area with a measles outbreaks, it is best that everyone traveling be fully vaccinated. Any healthy child over 12 months of age and any healthy adult can receive a dose immediately and a second dose in 28 days. It is recommended to have these two vaccines completed 2 weeks prior to travel.
- Why can’t I vaccinate my child less than 6 months of age? At this age, the mother’s antibodies may still be present in the child and therefore, the antibodies may interfere with the vaccine and its ability to be effective.
- How do I protect my child who is less than 6 months of age? If your child is less than 6 months of age, the best thing to do is frequent hand washing, limit crowd exposure and believe it or not, breast feeding. Yes, this is yet another benefit to breast feeding. Breast feeding increases antibodies that fight infection making your child less susceptible to catching infections like the measles. Also, be sure you are vaccinated to protect your child.
- How do I know if I’m safe against the measles? See your doctor and have your titers drawn via a blood test to detect immunity. If you are partially immune, you may require a booster. If you are not immune, you will require two doses.
- Why is measles such a big deal? Measles is one of the world’s most contagious diseases. It is spread by coughing and sneezing, and close personal contact. The symptoms of measles are typical of the common cold with pink eye, and sometimes an ear infection, white spots found inside the cheeks, and high fever. A rash usually appears several days later from head to toe. Studies show, 1 out or 3 kids under the age of 5 who gets measles will be hospitalized (CDC.gov). This is due to the complications of measles which include high fever, pneumonia, blindness, dehydration and a brain infection called encephalitis.
According to the World Health Organization, even though a safe and cost-effective vaccine is available, in 2017, there were still 110,000 measles deaths globally. Between 2000-2017, measles vaccination resulted in an 80% drop in measles deaths worldwide which prevented an estimated 21.1 million deaths.
My words of wisdom, get your child and family members both in the United States and India vaccinated and don’t let the measles ruin your travel plans.