Summer travel: are you protected against measles?

If you’re travelling abroad for your holiday this summer – particularly if you’re flying long haul – you’ve probably already thought about whether you need any travel vaccinations. But have you considered whether you need protection against measles?

Measles is a highly infectious viral illness that can sometimes lead to serious complications. And according to Public Health England (PHE), recent outbreaks of measles across England have been linked with travel to and from Europe, where there have been large ongoing measles outbreak. Affected countries include Romania, Italy and Greece.

PHE experts say those who didn’t have the MMR vaccine when they were younger have been particularly affected. Unvaccinated young people and adults who spend time mixing closely with others are most at risk, suggests PHE, especially those going to festivals, sporting events or staying with friends or family.

The MMR vaccine – which is given in two doses – is available to all adults and children who are not up to date with both doses. If you’re not sure if you’re fully vaccinated, check with your GP.

“The measles outbreaks we are currently seeing in England are linked to ongoing large outbreaks in Europe,” says Dr Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisation at PHE. “The majority of cases we are seeing are in teenagers and young adults who missed out on their MMR vaccine when they were children.”

According to PHE the UK recently achieved World Health Organization measles elimination status, which means the overall risk of catching measles here in the UK is low. However people who haven’t been vaccinated are still being affected.

How to treat measles

If you or your child does catch measles it can be unpleasant, with symptoms including cold-like symptoms, a high temperature and sore, light-sensitive eyes, followed by a red-brown blotchy rash on the body. The infection usually clears within 10 days and doesn’t usually cause any further problems.

In the meantime, here’s what you can do to relieve your symptoms as well as prevent the infection spreading to others:

  • Stay at home for at least four days from when the rash first appears.
  • Take over-the-counter painkillers to relieve aches, pains and a high temperature – ask your local Careway pharmacist to recommend the right painkillers for you.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.
  • If your eyes are sensitive to light, staying in a dark room may be helpful too.

It’s also important to call your GP as soon as possible if you suspect you or your child may have measles – don’t go to the surgery without calling, or you may risk spreading the infection to other patients. Your GP can also give you information about having the MMR vaccination if you or your child hasn’t had it (or you haven’t had both doses).

To check your holiday destination’s vaccination requirements, visit Travel Health Pro.

Find your nearest Careway pharmacy by using our Pharmacy Finder.