Measles for travellers


Advice For Travellers.

Measles for travellers


There are outbreaks of measles every year in Australia and most of these cases are caught from overseas.

Measles is endemic in many countries including The Philippines & Vietnam. Recent years have seen outbreaks in Brisbane after returning from countries like Bali, Thailand and The Philippines. There are up to 200 cases a year of sporadic Measles Australia-wide. The disease is also very widespread in North, Central & South America, and the Caribbean. Most Measles in Europe is “home grown” with only 1-2% of cases being imported from overseas.

The infection is highly contagious and Queensland public health will go into overdrive. This always hits the headlines. The publicity serves a useful function. People need to know if they might have been exposed to the virus. Dates and times of public journeys or visits are made available so that potential contagion may be disrupted.

There have been recent outbreaks in The UK, Europe, The US and New Zealand.

Please ensure that you let us know if you think you may have measles before attending the clinic. Medical Centres & Emergency Departments take set  well-established precautions for good reason. One outbreak of measles in NSW in 2012 resulted in 16 cases of transmission of measles directly as a result of attendance at healthcare facilities.

Why all the fuss about Measles?

  • A single infected holiday maker can infect up to 40 people back at home.
  • Measles will at the very least cause a very unpleasant infection.
  • Common complications are middle ear infection, pneumonia, and gastrointestinal symptoms.
  • 1 in 1000 infected people develop an acute brain infection (encephalitis).

Measles Vaccination

Measles immunisation is in the form of MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella).

A single-dose MMR was introduced in Australia in 1966. However, Two doses of MMR are required for effective immunity. The two-dose MMR was introduced in 1994.

Most people born prior to 1966 have been exposed to wild measles and therefore do not need immunisation. Yes, you read that correctly! Measles is so contagious that anyone brought up before the Measles Vaccine was available almost certainly has had Measles!

The Australian immunisation handbook states:

“It is especially important that all persons born during or since 1966 have been given 2 doses of measles-containing vaccine …  before embarking on international travel if they do not have evidence of previous receipt of 2 doses of MMR vaccine, or serological evidence of protection for measles, mumps and rubella.”

This advice means, in practice, That MMR Vaccine or a blood test to check immunity is advised for people born after 1966 when the vaccination history is not known. The options are:

  • MMR Vaccine. There are no known issues with having an additional MMR Vaccine when the vaccine status is not known. To be fully covered, 2 x MMR vaccines are required at 1 month intervals.
  • or a blood test to check if the person is immune, and vaccinate if serology is negative.

Measles Vaccination and The Traveller

Strongly Consider Measles Vaccine if there’s a “yes” to any of the following:

  • Did you miss out out on routine childhood vaccinations?
  • Have you had just one MMR Vaccine?
  • Were you born between 1966 and 1994 and have had just one previous MMR?

Pregnant women will routinely have a measles immunity check at the first blood test.

WRITTEN BY: Dr Richard Beatty