The CDC Warns Travelers About Increased Measles Risk

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is warning travelers about increased measles activity, urging vaccination prior to international travel.

Although the measles virus is considered “eliminated” in both the U.S. and Canada, there has been a recent uptick in confirmed cases on both sides of the border. More than 1,000 cases have been reported in the U.S. since January, which presents a significant jump compared to recent years. 

“Risk for widespread U.S. measles transmission remains low because of high population immunity,” the CDC said in a report published yesterday. “However, because of the increase in cases during the first quarter of 2024, additional activities are needed to increase U.S. routine measles, mumps, and rubella vaccination coverage … These activities include encouraging vaccination before international travel and rapidly investigating suspected measles cases.”

The report notes that “almost all U.S. measles cases reported since January 2020 were import-associated,” identifying countries in the Eastern Mediterranean and African WHO regions as the most common sources for the virus.

PHAC urges Canadian travellers to check measles immunizations
The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) released a similar statement on March 27, acknowledging the increase in measles cases within Canada for 2024. According to the report, “the majority of measles cases in Canada are in people who are unvaccinated, most of whom are children. Some people with recent measles infections were exposed to measles while traveling internationally, while others were exposed in Canada.”

The Chief Public Health Officer of Canada Dr. Theresa Tam recommends anyone who plans to travel internationally take precautionary measures to ensure they are protected from measles while abroad. “If you plan to travel outside of Canada, talk to a health care provider or local public health department preferably 6 weeks before travel to see if you need additional doses of a measles-containing vaccine.”

Anna Maddison, a senior media relations advisor for PHAC, notes that those who were born before 1970 are assumed to have natural immunity, but may still be at risk when travelling internationally. “To receive missing vaccines or if you are unsure of your vaccination status, contact your health care provider or local public health unit,” she told TMR. “If you are unsure of your vaccination history and are recommended to receive another dose, there is no increased safety risk.”