How to protect yourself during measles outbreaks in Europe

There are measles outbreaks 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 and 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. However, there is a very safe and effective vaccine available to prevent this disease. 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 US immunization schedule as children, for example, foreign born spouses. To help protect your family when traveling around Europe, we recommend that you review your shot records to ensure that everyone is fully vaccinated against measles.
  2. Children under one year old traveling to high risk areas. Children under one 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 six months. However, this early dose is additional and does not replace the first shot in the normal immunization schedule.

If you would like to discuss protecting your infant with an early dose of measles vaccine, or would like assistance reviewing your family members’ immunization status, please schedule an appointment with your Primary Care team.