From the seasoned business man sitting in first class to the small infant taking his first flight, the confined space of an airplane makes us all easy targets for catching everything from a minor cold to a highly dangerous virus like the measles.

Ironically, with the proper precautions, your family may have a better chance of protecting yourselves from measles than from that cold. You just have to make sure, you are all vaccinated.

Dallas County Health and Human Services (DCHHS) has put out an alert of one diagnosed case of measles there in a 14-month child who had not received the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine and had gone on recent international travel.

Currently, there is an outbreak of measles in Europe.  Measles immunization usually is started at 12-15 months old, but should be given early in an outbreak.  If you are traveling overseas with an infant 6 months to 12-15 months old, get them immunized against measles with an MMR now. They will still need another MMR when they turn 12-15 months, but they will avoid the misery of measles.  

While new viruses such as the H7N9 flu and a new form of SARS, the middle eastern corona virus, make headlines, parents also need to concern themselves with immunizing everyone from more familiar foes including the measles and pertussis (or whooping cough). Families planning an overseas trip this summer should take special note of the importance of immunization.

There was a large outbreak of measles in France last year, and an emerging one in Britain this year.  The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control reports “of the 7,757 cases for which information on vaccination status was available, 82% were unvaccinated. In the target group for routine childhood MMR vaccination (1–4-year-olds), 78% of the cases were unvaccinated.”

I can’t stress enough if you are traveling abroad, the importance of making sure you are updated on your immunization. This holds true for pregnant women, infants, kids, teens and adults. We all have to do our part and have our shots updated to keep each other healthy.

Measles is particularly contagious. Transmission is by coughing, sneezing or simply being next to someone laughing. It’s that easy. 

The MMR vaccine is recommended for children as young as 6 months old when they are traveling abroad. Children under 12 months of age and traveling internationally should receive 2 doses of MMR, separated by at least 28 days.

What’s particularly frustrating is that these diseases can be contained and even eliminated if we do our part. MMR vaccination remains the most effective way to prevent outbreaks. In children, the first MMR vaccine dose is administered at 12-15 months and the second at 4-6 years. All college students, international travelers, and health care personnel should receive two doses of MMR vaccine, unless they have other evidence of measles immunity.

Enjoy your trip, but make it safe with the proper vaccinations.

Donald Murphey, M.D., is the medical director of Cook Children’s Infectious Disease.

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