Measles, International Travel, and Your Birth Date
The problem: Measles
High fever, red and watery eyes, runny nose, cough, and a rash that can spread across the entire body: measles wreak havoc. One to two children of every 1,000 who get measles die from complications of the disease. One in four teenagers and adults who get measles must be hospitalized.
Regrettably, 2019 is turning out to be a terrible year for measles outbreaks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that from January 1 to April 26, 2019, 704 individual cases of measles were confirmed in 22 states. This is the greatest number of cases reported in the U.S. since 1994 and since measles was declared eliminated in 2000.
The reality: International Travel
International business and business travel must go on. Each year, corporate travelers around the world take more than 480 million business trips. Measles is highly contagious, which makes flying and other transportation a hotbed for the spread of this noxious virus. Elsewhere in the world, there are currently measles outbreaks in Israel, Japan, Brazil, Ukraine, and the Philippines. The CDC says international travelers are at high risk for exposure and transmission of the virus.
If an employee contracts measles and gets sick abroad, a first-rate travel risk management solution can help. Whether the employee is forced to miss or interrupt a trip, or needs emergency support while abroad, you have an obligation to provide them the highest Duty of Care.
If an employee gets sick abroad, and believes he/she/they have contracted measles, they should immediately let you know. A nearby doctor can determine if someone is immune to measles based on vaccination record, age, or laboratory evidence, and make special evaluation arrangements if needed, without putting other patients and medical office staff—and other employees— at risk.
If employees believe they have measles, they should stay away from settings where there are susceptible people (such as airports and airplanes!) until their doctor says it’s okay to return. This will help ensure they do not spread it to others.
Risk assessment: Birth Date
How at risk are you? A lot depends on your age.
Were you born before 1957? If so, you probably were not vaccinated against measles, and may have had it in childhood— along with other viruses like mumps or rubella— and you're safe now in 2019.
According to the CDC, before the measles vaccination program started in 1963, about 3 to 4 million people got measles each year in the US. Of those people, 400 to 500 died, 48,000 were hospitalized, and 4,000 developed encephalitis (brain swelling) from measles.
For two decades after 1968, most people who vaccinated against measles received only one dose. The CDC's Measles FAQ page says one dose of measles vaccine is about 93% effective at preventing measles if exposed to the virus. Two doses are about 97% effective.
In 1989, health officials started recommending two doses of the live vaccine. Some grade-school students received the second shot, but guidelines varied by state. A growing trend in pockets of the US and across the globe against vaccination is the biggest contributing factor to the growing number of measles cases.
There’s no such thing as a totally virus-free world, but be sure 2019’s outbreak is part of your travel risk management and Duty of Care consideration.
Email us at info@NC4.com or call 877-624-4999 to speak with an NC4 risk management specialist and dramatically increase your ability to prepare and respond to global risks.