Public health leaders urge people to get vaccinated against measles, especially those traveling this spring

March 25, 2024
Measles cases reported internationally and in U.S. states including Indiana, Ohio, Illinois and Florida 

Ahead of spring break travel, the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness (LMPHW) is urging travelers to make sure they are current on their Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine. According to a health alert issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 58 measles cases have been reported in 17 states in the U.S. this year. States with confirmed cases are Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington. Currently, there are no confirmed cases in Kentucky. The CDC reports most of the U.S. cases in 2024 have been linked to international travel and have been among children aged 12 months and older who had not been vaccinated. 

“Many travel destinations, including Europe, are experiencing outbreaks of measles. The virus is highly contagious. One person infected with measles can spread it to nine out of 10 unvaccinated people,” said Dr. Kris Bryant, associate medical director at LMPHW. “The good news is we have a very effective vaccine that can prevent infection and reduce the risk of community transmission.” 

MMR vaccine 

Two doses of the MMR vaccine are about 97% effective at preventing measles. It is recommended that people 12 months and older get the MMR vaccine, starting with the first dose at 12 to 15 months of age and the second at 4 to 6 years of age. Older children and adults should be up to date on recommended MMR vaccination. Immunity to measles is especially important for people traveling internationally. Children 6 to 11 months should be given a dose of the MMR vaccine to protect them if they are traveling to another country. 

“Measles can be especially dangerous for babies, young children, pregnant people and those with compromised immune systems,” said Dr. Bryant. “Getting vaccinated is the best way to prevent the spread of measles and protect those who are at high-risk and unable to get immunized.”  

To get the MMR vaccine, contact your primary care provider. LMPHW also provides vaccines for children and adults at its immunization clinics. To schedule an appointment, call 502-574-5380. 

Measles symptoms and health outcomes 

Measles can cause severe health outcomes, including pneumonia, inflammation of the brain and death, especially in people who are unvaccinated. 

Symptoms typically appear 10 to 12 days after exposure and include:  
•    Fever 
•    Cough
•    Runny nose 
•    Red, watery eyes (conjunctivitis/pink eye) 
•    Rash that appears 3-5 days after symptoms begin 

“If you think you’ve been exposed to measles or have symptoms of measles, immediately call your doctor or healthcare provider,” said Dr. Bryant. “They can make special arrangements to assess you, so you don’t put medical staff and other patients at risk.”  

For further recommendations to parents, travelers and healthcare providers, view the CDC’s health alert.  Visit our website to learn more about measles. 

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Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness (LMPHW) is a nationally accredited, independent, academic health department committed to achieving health equity and improving the health and well-being of all Louisville residents and visitors.   

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