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Traveling Abroad? Get a Measles Shot

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Many adults who are not immune to measles travel outside the United States without being vaccinated and risk bringing home a highly contagious and sometimes fatal disease.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends most adults born after 1956 get at least one dose of the vaccine unless they can show they have been vaccinated or have had measles.

Researchers gathered data from questionnaires filled out by 40,810 patients at 24 sites nationwide that provide travel health advice and vaccinations. They had information on vaccines provided, age, medical conditions, reasons for travel and destinations.

The study, in Annals of Internal Medicine, found that 6,612 of the travelers were not immune to measles. Of those, 3,477 were not vaccinated at the consultation, most for legitimate reasons, including pregnancy. But 1,689 of them — 48 percent — simply refused the vaccination, and the most common reason given was “I am not concerned about illness.”

But they should be. The lead author, Dr. Emily P. Hyle, an infectious disease physician at Massachusetts General Hospital, said that measles has been eliminated in the United States and that all new cases are imported. Since 1989, guidelines have required that all travelers be vaccinated or demonstrate proof of being immune.

“This is regardless of where people travel,” Dr. Hyle said. “Right now there are outbreaks in Germany, Italy and Romania.”

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