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Planning international travel? Don’t forget about immunizations!


Monday, February 2, 2015
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Measles kills 400 children in the world every day. It is very contagious and travels easily from one continent to another. But, there is something you can do to protect you and your family – get vaccinated.

If you are traveling overseas, make sure that you and your children are up-to-date on your measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (called MMR). Children as young as 6 months old should receive the MMR vaccine.

Polio is another infectious disease that has been spreading through travelers. Polio is a disease that can cause paralysis (cannot move a leg or arm) and sometimes meningitis (an infection in the brain and spinal cord). If the paralysis spreads it can cause a person to stop breathing.

The increase in the number of cases of polio has concerned health officials at the World Health Organization. They recommend that people who spend more than four weeks in a country where polio is found be vaccinated before they travel. People who are traveling to countries where polio is found should make sure to talk to their clinic about whether they need a booster and if their children have all the doses they need for travel.

It can be easy to think that these diseases won’t affect you and your family. One Minnesota mother found out how dangerous these diseases can be while traveling. Before traveling, the doctor recommended that her son get his MMR vaccine earlier than usual because they were traveling to visit family in Kenya. She meant for her son to get the vaccine, but he was finally sleeping. She decided it could wait until they came back. They were just going to visit family which didn’t seem like a big risk.

The day they returned home, her son developed cold symptoms – a cough, runny nose, and watery, red eyes. Then he got a fever and became very tired. She took him to the doctor, and they said it was a virus and to watch him closely. The cough got worse and the fever got higher so she took him to the doctor again. This time they put him in the hospital because he had pneumonia. The doctors did more tests and put him in a private room – he had measles.

It was hard for her child to breathe so they put him on a breathing machine. There were tubes in his mouth, nose, and arms. She felt helpless. The doctors warned that her son might die. For three weeks she watched a machine breath for her son.

The little boy survived, but his mother will never forget his suffering.  The disease also spread to other people on the airplane and among family members that were not vaccinated. She tells anyone traveling overseas, “Be sure to get all the vaccines you or your family needs.”

To keep your travels healthy, talk to your clinic or doctor about your trip, the shots you need and ways to stay healthy while traveling.

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