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Travel health information for people travelling abroad from the UK

Measles

Introduction

Measles is a highly infectious viral disease that is caused by paramyxovirus. 

Measles occurs throughout the world and is transmitted by sneezing, coughing or direct contact with respiratory secretions.

The Illness

Measles is characterised by a rash that spreads from the head, down the body and over the limbs, over a period of 3 to 4 days. General flu-like symptoms may be experienced prior to the appearance of a rash. Such symptoms include fever, malaise, conjunctivitis and cough. Measles can be a very serious disease, particularly in children, and causes thousands of deaths worldwide every year. 

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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