CPS advises travelers to update vaccinations

POSTED: 07/4/11 11:56 AM

St. Maarten (DCOMM) – The Collective Preventive Service (CPS) of the Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labor, reminds residents who plan to travel for the summer holidays to Europe and the Americas to make sure their vaccinations are up to date, especially for measles.

Travelers should check with their family physician to see if their vaccinations are up to date.

The Pan American Health Organization Paho and the World Health Organization WHO called in May on health authorities in the Americas to recommend vaccination against measles and rubella for travelers.

Paho also recommends that residents of the Americas planning to travel to other regions of the world should be protected against measles and rubella prior to departure.

Travel increases the risk for exposure to the measles virus and its further spread into susceptible populations if people are not vaccinated. An outbreak of measles is defined as a chain of transmission with three or more confirmed cases.

From January 1 to June 17, more measles cases were reported in the United States compared with the same period since 1996. Most of these cases were among or linked to travelers returning from or visiting from other countries such as countries in Europe and Southeast Asia.

Measles is spread by contact with an infected person and through coughing and sneezing. The measles virus can remain active and contagious for up to two hours in the air or on surfaces.

Travelers who have not been vaccinated against measles and rubella are at risk of getting the disease and transmitting it to their friends and family members who may not be up to date with their vaccinations.

Special efforts should be made to ensure vaccination for women of childbearing age in order to prevent possible infections caused by the rubella virus during pregnancy.

Since the beginning of the year, the WHO has reported more than 6,000 cases of measles with significant outbreaks observed in 30 countries, including Belgium, France, Serbia, Turkey, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and Spain.

To prevent further spread, WHO encourages health authorities to advocate immunization before travel and to provide immunizations through health system services.

WHO recommends at least one dose prior to international travel for adolescents and adults who are unsure about their immunity status.

Measles are highly contagious and remains one of the world’s biggest causes of death among young children. Travelers may be exposed on airplanes or in airports.

International travelers must show evidence of immunity to measles and rubella.

CPS advises travelers to talk to their doctor about the need for a measles vaccination. People who cannot show that they were vaccinated as children and who have never had measles should probably be vaccinated.

The first measles vaccine is routinely recommended for children at the age of 12 months.

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