Recent European outbreak puts adults, children at risk for contracting measles

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Adults and children not vaccinated for measles could be at risk for contracting the illness due to a current outbreak in several European countries.

Almost all cases have occurred in individuals not properly immunized against the disease. The most seriously affected countries are Italy and Romania. However, France, Germany, Poland, Switzerland, Ukraine are seeing a significant number of cases and Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Iceland, Hungary, Portugal, Spain and Sweden have experienced a few cases.

Measles can be a very serious, even fatal, illness and is especially severe in babies and elderly persons, according to Col. (Dr.) Rodney Coldren, the chief of Epidemiology and Disease Surveillance for Public Health Command Europe.

“However, there is a very safe and effective vaccine available to prevent this disease,” Coldren continued. “The vast majority of Americans are already immunized against measles, having received at least two doses of the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine in early childhood.”

Two groups of people in the American military community are particularly vulnerable to measles infection:

1. Family members who were not subject to the U.S. immunization schedule as children, for example, foreign born spouses. To help protect the family when traveling around Europe, RHCE recommends that individuals review their vaccination records to ensure that everyone is fully vaccinated against measles.

2. Children under 1 years old traveling to high risk areas are at risk. Children under 1 are too young to receive the first regularly scheduled measles vaccine. This is a concern if they are travelling to an area affected by a measles outbreak. In such cases, U.S. authorities allow for the early administration of measles vaccine to provide protection until the regular measles series can be started at 12 months of age. This early dose can be given as early as 6 months. However, this early dose is additional and does not replace the first shot in the normal immunization schedule.

For more information on protecting an infant with an early dose of measles vaccine or assistance reviewing Family members’ immunization status, schedule an appointment with the Family’s primary care team. n