What You Should Know about Europe’s Measles Outbreak

An ongoing measles outbreak in Europe should be a wake-up call to travelers from the United States to make sure they are up-to-date on MMR and other vaccines before traveling there.

According to news reports, at least 35 people in Europe have died because of measles or measles-related complications in the past 12 months. And in the first five months of 2017, reported cases of measles increased 50 percent, compared with the total number of cases reported in 2016.

Recent news reports link those cases to a decline in vaccination rates across the continent. Some of the countries hit hardest by measles are Italy and Romania. In Italy, 3,300 cases of measles have been reported since June 2016.

The measles outbreak has been hard to stop in Europe because it is highly contagious and easily spreads. Droplets sneezed or coughed into the air can live for up to two hours. Measles can be serious for people of all ages, causing permanent hearing loss, pneumonia and encephalitis. The virus is especially dangerous for children younger than 5 and pregnant women; however, the risk of death from measles is higher for adults and infants than children.

Because of the ongoing measles outbreak, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommends that all U.S. travelers be up to date on their MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccines before traveling to Europe. The CDC recommends that adults receive one to two doses of MMR between the ages of 19 and 59, unless they have a medical contraindication to the vaccine.

Measles is also a concern for travelers returning to the United States from other countries. While measles is considered to have been eliminated in U.S. outbreaks of the virus have occurred in recent years, including a well-documented case involving more than 100 visitors to Disneyland. Most of the outbreaks in the U.S. have been tied to unvaccinated travelers, including American citizens, coming to the United States from other countries.

Do Your Research Before You Travel

People who travel long-distances, whether to another continent or within the United States, should always take a few minutes to research any illnesses that may be occurring in the places they plan to visit. The CDC keeps a list on its website for destinations both inside and outside the United States.

The vast majority of travelers experience no health or safety concerns when away from home. However, in cases of complications related to severe cases of measles or other illnesses, travelers may require air medical transport to return home for continued care.

SentinelMED provides domestic and international air medical transport, medical repatriation and medical escort services for people who are sick, injured or elderly. The SentinelMED team works closely with hospital case managers to coordinate care for patients from a medical facility to a health care facility closer to their home, or to the home of a family member. In addition, our trained medical escorts are available to travel with patients on commercial airlines to help ensure their safety and comfort. This service can be a cost-effective alternative to air ambulances.

The SentinelMED team understands the complexity of delivering exceptional care to patients who need medical assistance during travel. Please contact us to learn more about the services that SentinelMED offers.

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