By Chesney Hearst, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – With the number of reported cases of measles on the rise in Brazil, travelers planning to visit the country for the upcoming 2014 FIFA World Cup or other events are advised to ensure that they and their children have been adequately immunized with the Mumps-Measles-Rubella (MMR) vaccine.
The Brazilian Ministry of Health reported 201 cases of measles in 2013. That number showed a one hundred percent increase over the two cases reported in 2012.
This year in the months of January and February alone, seventy-four cases of measles have been reported. Seventy of those cases were in the state of Ceará and the remaining four were reported in the state of Pernambuco.
Half of the reported cases were detected in child under twelve months old who had not completed the full MMR vaccination schedule. The vaccination is administered through a series of shots. The first shot is usually given to children age about a year old, with a booster shot administered no sooner than four weeks later.
Measles is a highly contagious virus that affects the respiratory system, immune system and skin. Transmitted through air by sneezing, coughing and other respiratory secretions, symptoms include a skin rash, hacking cough, fever, eye irritation and a runny nose.
“Every year we have an average of five percent of children who are not vaccinated in the country [Brazil] and as the years go by we have a larger percentage of the population susceptible to the disease,” Leonardo Menezes, pediatrician and specialist in pediatric infectious diseases at the National Institute for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescent’s Health Fernandes Figueira (IFF/Fiocruz) told Agência Brasil. “And as the disease is highly transmissible, the odds of having an outbreak or epidemic increase.”
There is no specific treatment for measles but typically the virus lasts seven to ten days, given there are no complications. Complications can include diarrhea and pneumonia and in severe cases the virus can lead to death.
“Anyone who is not protected against measles is at risk of getting infected when they travel internationally,” the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states on its website, adding that tourists “can bring measles to the United States and infect others.”
The U.S. Department of State’s U.S. Passports & International Travel website advises that travelers should visit physicians four to six weeks before their scheduled departures. For more information about vaccines and health issues while in Brazil, call the CDC hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP and visit their “Yellow Book”.
Read more (in Portuguese).
* The Rio Times Daily Updates feature is offered to help keep you up-to-date with important news as it happens.