Measles outbreak shows importance of immunizations when traveling internationally
WEST VALLEY CITY — West Valley City resident Kelley Kramer spent Thursday afternoon getting poked at the Salt Lake Valley Health Department.
She listed all the vaccines she had to get for an upcoming work trip to India.
"Hepatitis A and B, typhoid, tetanus and measles and polio. That's six, right?" she asked with a smile on her face. "My girlfriend had more, so I'm glad I only had six."
Health experts say if you're planning on leaving the country — whether it's for work or play — there are potential health risks.
They say the recent outbreak of measles in the Granite School District is a classic example of what can happen when you're not immunized. The five locally confirmed cases of measles likely originated with members of a Utah family who recently vacationed in Poland to pick up their missionary daughter.
Travel nurses say they've seen people come back from trips with diseases like polio and tuberculosis.
"Other countries have polio and because we do vaccinate pretty well here, we don't really see a whole lot of people come back with that, but those are all issues," said Holly Birich, the clinical director for the Health Department's International Travel Clinic.
Birich says people headed for underdeveloped countries like India should visit a travel clinic to get information on required vaccinations and potential health risks, including malaria, high-altitude sickness and dengue fever.
They say you should be properly immunized, whether the trip is for a week or a year, and the requirements differ for each country.
For example, visitors to Mexico are urged to have the routine vaccinations like MMR (measles, mumps and rubella), as well as shots for hepatitis A and B, typhoid and rabies.
If you're headed for a country in Eastern Europe, like Russia, you'll also need the polio vaccine.
"Many underdeveloped countries don't have vaccination programs like we have here," Birich said.
But developed nations have health risks, too. On Thursday, Birich got a travel alert from the World Health Organization warning of a large measles outbreak this year in France and Spain.
The alert said there were 3,749 cases of measles in France in January and February. There were more than 400 cases of measles in Spain in the same time period. The WHO says the numbers are a significant increase over average incidences.
Kelley Kramer, who is also going to Germany soon, isn't too concerned about getting sick during her trip. She didn't need any vaccines to go to Europe and she got all the needed immunizations for India.
She also got some information about food, repellents and what to avoid while in India. Birich told Kramer about a high risk for rabies in India. "Please do not touch the animals," she said.
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