Summer, Sun, and Shots: Vaccine Update for the 2012 Summer Season

Summer travel season is in full swing. Families everywhere are heading to exciting travel destinations with suitcases full of sunscreen and enthusiasm.

These destinations are guaranteed to have expected sun and thrills. Unlike past summers, however, travelers this year could be headed into some unexpected dangers. 

Why? Because measles and pertussis (whooping cough) are currently infecting people at very high rates. Many areas of the world are seeing epidemics of these diseases. 

Measles infection rates have been higher than we have seen in over a decade. The source of most US infections has been international travelers who unknowing brought the disease back to their American neighborhoods. Europe, specifically, has been the source of many of these infections. In fact, 2011 saw nearly 14000 cases of measles in France alone

Pertussis has also been hitting the US hard. This very contagious bacterial infection is at epidemic rates in some areas of the west coastPertussis is also being seen in our own Kansas City backyard. Most tragically, two American infants and three European infants have died from pertussis this year.

We are a global community. Many are suffering from vaccine-preventable diseases in our world, and these diseases know no boundaries. 

I am very concerned that unprepared travelers may suffer unexpected illness this summer; subsequently returning home with contagious infections that will spread to family, friends, and neighbors. With infection rates this high and international travel peaking over the next 3 months (Summer Olympic Games in London, anyone?); the risk of being exposed to, or transmitting, a potentially life-threatening infection becomes very real... no matter where you live.

If you are traveling internationally this summer:

  • The CDC has issued a Travelers’ Health Advisory for those traveling internationally. Every traveler over 12 months of age should have received 2 MMR vaccines, separated by at least 28 days. Those 6-12 months should also be protected with one dose of vaccine. Discuss this recommendation with your child’s doctor. 
  • In addition, if you have not gotten a TDaP (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis) vaccine in your recent memory, or your last tetanus booster was a Td (tetanus only vaccine); you should get the shot NOW. Young children get a total of 5 DTaP vaccines from 2 months to 5 years of age. A booster dose is recommended by age 11 years. Review your child’s vaccine record with your pediatrician to be sure they are up to date

If you are traveling closer to home, or welcoming family after their return:

  • Be sure all family members over the age of 12 months have had a MMR vaccine. Children over 4 years of age should have a booster vaccine. 

Finally, although recent vaccination efforts have been focused on these two specific diseases, please don’t ignore the other recommended vaccinations for your family. Without continued efforts to protect our children, outbreaks of additional diseases will occur. Suffering from these vaccine-preventable diseases should not happen in a time when preventative medicines are available. Talk with your child’s doctor about vaccines, and decide on an immunization plan today. 

Protect yourself. Protect your family. Get vaccinated. 

Happy summer! 

For other vaccine recommendations for international travel, please visit the CDC website