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Travel health information for people travelling abroad from the UK

Measles

Introduction

Measles is a highly infectious viral disease that occurs throughout the world, it is transmitted by sneezing, coughing or direct contact with respiratory secretions.

Measles continues to spread across Europe because the vaccination coverage in many countries is inadequate.

The Illness

Measles usually starts with flu-like symptoms approximately 10 days after becoming infected. Such symptoms may include fever, muscle aches, cough, redness and inflamation of the eyes. These symptoms are typically followed a few days later by the measles rash, a red-brown blotchy rash that usually starts on the head or upper neck, before spreading outwards to the rest of the body.

For most people, the illness lasts around 7 to 10 days in total. However, complications can occur and measles continues to be one of the leading causes of death among young children even though a safe and cost-effective vaccine is available.

Treatment

There is no specific treatment available.

Recommendations for Travellers

This disease is still common in much of Asia, Africa, the Indian sub-continent and South America. More recently there have been outbreaks of measles in many developed countries such as the Australia, US, Canada, New Zealand and several European countries including the UK. The risk is greater when living or working with local people or travelling for large gatherings (e.g. sporting and music events).

The two vaccines that protect against measles are combined with mumps and rubella (MMR). Currently used vaccines in the UK are: M-M-RVAXPRO and Priorix. MMR vaccine is usually given to children as part of the national childhood schedule, in infancy and prior to starting school. Two doses of vaccine give long-lasting protection against all three diseases.

Individuals should ensure that they have received two doses of MMR prior to travel to areas where the risk of measles is high. Those who were born between 1980 and 1990 may not have received two doses of MMR vaccine. Individuals born between this time should check with their GP to ensure that they have received vaccination. Prior infection with measles, mumps or rubella will provide lifelong immunity against that particular disease.

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