Measles vaccination for travel

Has your child had all their measles vaccinations? The UK Health Security Agency is reporting that since the pandemic some children have missed out on some doses of their scheduled vaccines, which has left them vulnerable to diseases like measles and diphtheria. Anyone who is travelling abroad, child or adult, should check they are fully up to date with their measles vaccination as measles is highly infectious.

What are the symptoms of measles?

The symptoms of measles are:

  • blotchy red-brown rash
  • coughing
  • greyish white spots inside the mouth (some patients)
  • high fever
  • sore eyes

Why is measles so dangerous?

Most people recover from measles after a week to ten days, and infection makes you immune in future. However, some people suffer from dangerous measles complications. Measles can spread to the lungs, causing pneumonia, or to the brain (encephalitis). The young daughter of the author Roald Dahl died from measles encephalitis.

Measles is enormously contagious and difficult to avoid because it is spread by respiratory droplets (the spray from a cough or a sneeze). You can catch it by breathing in respiratory droplets. The virus can survive for a few hours outside the body. This means you can catch measles by touching a surface contaminated with infected droplets and then touching your mouth or nose.

What should I do if I think I have measles?

Measles is very contagious, which means you could easily give it to other people. If you think you have measles, stay at home and phone your GP or NHS 111. Measles is a notifiable disease, so your GP will definitely want to hear from you! They will also give you self-care advice and information about signs of possible complications.

Use good coughing and sneezing etiquette to avoid spreading measles to those close to you. If you’re going to cough or sneeze, cover your nose and mouth. Don’t use your hand to catch a sneeze. Use your elbow, just like Dracula! This is because when you cough into your hand you risk transferring the virus to shared surfaces (bannisters, light switches, door handles).

You need to stay off school and work until four days after the rash appears.

Certain groups are very vulnerable to catching measles, including young children and pregnant women, so stay away from such individuals.

What should I do if I haven’t been immunised against measles?

Children who have not been immunised against measles, or who have not completed immunisation are vulnerable to infection.

The MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine for children is part of the NHS childhood vaccination schedule. MMR is given in two doses – the first of which confers only partial immunity.

Children and adults who think they have not been fully immunised against measles should see their GP or arrange for a private vaccination against measles.

Learn more about measles and travel with Travel Health Pro.

Can I get all my travel vaccines at the same appointment?

You need to have some travel vaccines in multiple doses spread across several appointments. However, some vaccines work better if not given at the same time – for example, yellow fever and MMR work best if given four weeks apart. That’s why we ask you to come for your first travel health appointment six to eight weeks before your trip abroad. If you need measles vaccination, and yellow fever vaccination, it’s important to spread the doses.

Having said that, we can still help if you need travel health advice for a last-minute trip – some vaccines can be given on an accelerated schedule. Come and talk to us about your emergency travel health needs.