Why Aren’t International Travelers Vaccinated for Measles?

Annals of Internal Medicine
18 July 2017 Vol: 167, Issue 2

Why Aren’t International Travelers Vaccinated for Measles?
Lori K. Handy, MD, MSCE; Paul A. Offit, MD
Before a vaccine against measles was introduced, 500 000 cases occurred each year in the United States, resulting in 500 deaths, 48 000 hospitalizations, and 1000 cases of permanent brain damage from encephalitis (1). Endemic measles was eliminated from the United States in 2000 (2), but sporadic outbreaks have occurred since then because of importation of the virus from other countries. These cases occur in travelers as well as their contacts in the United States, many of whom are unvaccinated themselves (3). In 2014, the United States had the largest single outbreak of measles (667 cases) in more than 20 years because of infected travelers returning from abroad combined with the low vaccination rate of certain U.S. populations (4). This outbreak was linked to travel to the Philippines, which was in the midst of a measles epidemic. In 2015, a multistate outbreak associated with Disneyland likely was the result of a park visitor who had traveled overseas; 188 cases were reported that year (5). Importations remain the source of measles transmission in the United States, and persons visiting travel clinics present an opportunity to reduce or eliminate these cases.