Berrien County recommends international travelers be up-to-date on measles vaccination

Child and mother at the airport

This article appeared on Herald Palladium. Read more here.

If you’re planning an international trip, the Berrien County Health Department strongly recommends you verify all travelers, including young children, are up-to-date on measles vaccinations.

In February, Michigan experienced its first case of measles since 2019, when an Oakland County child tested positive for measles after an overseas trip. Two additional, unrelated cases have since been diagnosed, heightening the possibility of community spread.

“The most common way for measles to show up here in our community is through an imported case from residents who travel internationally, but are not up-to-date on the measles vaccine,” Dr. Rex Cabaltica, BCHD medical director, said in a news release. “As measles cases rise in Michigan, we strongly encourage being vaccinated against this highly transmissible disease.

“If parents and guardians are not sure of their own or their children’s vaccination status, BCHD or their primary care provider can help them access their records to verify which vaccines they may need. The measles vaccine is 93 percent effective at preventing measles after a single shot and 97 percent effective after the second shot.”

Measles is a highly contagious, vaccine-preventable disease that is spread by direct person-to-person contact and through the air. The virus can live for up to two hours in the air where the infected person was present.

Symptoms of measles usually begin seven to 14 days after exposure but can appear up to 21 days after exposure and may include:

  • High fever
  • Cough
  • Runny nose
  • Conjunctivitis, or red, watery eyes
  • Tiny white spots on the inner cheeks, gums and roof of the mouth two to three days after symptoms begin
  • A rash that is red, raised and blotchy; it usually starts on the face and spreads to the chest, arms and legs three to five days after symptoms begin

If symptoms develop, residents are urged not to visit their doctor or emergency room unless they have called ahead so facilities can take precautions to prevent exposure to other individuals.

Cabaltica noted that measles is most likely to spread in segments of the community who are unvaccinated. In the largest recent outbreak over the past two decades, involving 1,249 cases during 2019, 75 percent of these cases occurred in the state of New York and were concentrated among a significant segment of the community that was close-knit and unvaccinating. Eighty-six percent of all cases that year involved those who were either unvaccinated or had an unknown vaccination status against measles.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more information on measles on its website, cdc.gov.

Berrien County residents can call the health department at 926-7121 for help checking on vaccination status.

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