Measles in South America
Updated: April 25, 2019
- Update to recommendations
Original publication date: April 25, 2018
A large measles outbreak in ongoing in Venezuela, with over 6,200 confirmed cases reported since June 2017. Cases have been reported in all states and the Capital District.
There is also currently a large outbreak of measles in Brazil. More than 10,300 confirmed cases have been reported since the outbreak began in 2018. The majority of cases have been reported in the states of Amazonas and Roraima.
In 2019, outbreaks of measles have also been reported in Chile and Colombia.
Measles is a highly contagious disease. It can spread quickly from person to person by direct contact and through droplets in the air.
Early symptoms of measles include:
- high fever
- runny nose
- small, white spots inside the mouth and throat
- red, watery eyes
After 3 to 7 days, a red blotchy rash develops on the face and spreads down the body. Measles can be contagious from 4 days before until 4 days after the rash appears.
Measles circulates in most regions of the world including Africa, Asia and Europe.
Measles does not naturally circulate in Canada; however cases have been reported in travellers to Canada from countries where measles is a concern. An infected traveller can spread measles to groups of people who are not vaccinated and cause an outbreak in Canada.
Travellers are at an increased risk of measles infection if they:
- have not had measles, or
- have not received the age appropriate recommended doses of the measles vaccine
Consult a health care professional or visit a travel health clinic at least six weeks before you travel.
Get vaccinated for measles
Protection against measles is especially important for people planning travel. In Canada, the measles vaccine is part of our routine immunization schedule; however, you may require an additional dose before travelling outside of Canada. The following is recommended when travelling outside of Canada:
- Travellers born BEFORE 1970:
- should make sure that they have received 1 dose of the vaccine; or
- have laboratory evidence of immunity (e.g. through blood testing); or
- are considered immune due to a history of laboratory-confirmed measles disease.
- Travellers born in 1970 or AFTER (12 months or older):
- should make sure that they have received 2 doses of the measles vaccine
- Infants (6 months to 12 months of age):
- routinely receive the vaccine between 12 and 15 months. During outbreaks, if you are travelling to regions where measles is a concern, it may be given as early as 6 months of age. If this is the case, the routine 2 dose series must be restarted on or after the first birthday. A total of 3 doses are given.
Wash your hands frequently
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available. Keep a bottle with you when you travel.
Practise proper cough and sneeze etiquette
- Cover your mouth and nose with your arm to reduce the spread of germs.
- Dispose of tissues as soon as possible after use, and wash your hands.
Monitor your health
- See a healthcare professional if you develop symptoms of measles when travelling or after you return to Canada:
- Alert the health care professional about your symptoms before your appointment, so they can take proper precautions.
- Tell the health care professional which countries you have visited.
- Avoid close contact with other people to reduce the chance of infecting others if you:
- have symptoms of measles
- have been exposed to someone who has measles
- If you notice symptoms of measles during the flight, tell the flight attendant before you land or the border services officer as you enter the country. They will notify a quarantine officer who can assess your symptoms.
Registration of Canadians Abroad
Sign up with the Registration of Canadians Abroad service to stay connected with the Government of Canada in case of an emergency abroad or an emergency at home.
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