Fellow travelers (especially those with cancer or other health issues):
Given the worldwide spread of measles, please be sure you have immunity to measles. You might need an MMR (Measles Mumps Rubella) booster vaccine.
The global measles outbreaks have demonstrated the measles virus can be spread by travelers. You, as a traveler, can be exposed to the disease. However, if you do not have immunity, you can also expose others to the disease. A single traveler carrying the measles virus can expose a local population even before the traveler has symptoms of the disease. It doesn’t have to be international travel — any travel to another location risks spreading the disease to a new population.
The CDC claims “If you and your travel companions have received two doses of a measles-containing vaccine (and can document both of them), you have sufficient protection against the disease. You do not need any additional measles vaccines or lab work. You are also protected against measles if you have laboratory evidence of immunity, laboratory confirmation of measles disease, or if you were born before 1957.”
In the case of Baby Boomers or those dealing with chronic or serious health conditions, I would go further.
I was born before 1956, so the assumption would be that I’m immune to measles. However, since I have compromised lungs due to lung cancer treatment and Washington State had a measles outbreak last year, I asked my PCP about my immunity. She recommeded I have a titer to test whether I still have immunity to measles, mumps and rubella. The tests only required a blood draw, followed by a separate analysis of immunity for each disease.
My titers showed I still had immunity to measles and rubella, diseases which I had as a kid. However, I’ve never had mumps. Even though I had the MMR vaccine when I was 17, the titer showed I had lost my immunity to mumps. Because of my level of immunity and my previous MMR, my doctor prescribed a single MMR booster shot. The cost of all three titers and the MMR booster were completely covered by my insurance (a BCBS company).
My son is in his 30’s, and had the MMR vaccine as an infant. He never had any of these diseases, although he did get chicken pox. His titers showed he was immune to two diseases, but had lost immunity to the third. His doctor recommended a single MMR booster. His insurance (Kaiser) covered the titers and MMR booster for him as well.
Please, if you plan to travel, make sure you have immunity to measles. More information is available here:
Global Measles Outbreak Notice (US Centers for Disease Control)
WHO advice for international travel in relation to measles (June 2019)
The value of vaccines is established by scientific evidence. Please don’t debate this fact in the comments.
Thanks for this excellent information!