Guest Blog from Ken Komatsu, State Epidemiologist
With over 1 billion people crossing international borders each year, vaccine preventable diseases not usually found in Arizona, can arrive at any time. Earlier this month a young child from Pima County became ill with a rash illness while visiting Asia. This region of the world has had over a thousand cases of measles reported in the last six months as shown on this world map of measles. Also, there was a community outbreak of measles in the town the child was visiting at the time. While her older siblings were already immunized, the child did not receive measles vaccine prior to travel because of age. The child was diagnosed with measles while in Asia, but continued traveling to London, New York and finally to Phoenix.
The child’s diagnosis was confirmed by our state public health laboratory after arrival, our epidemiologists followed up with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Division of Global Migration and Quarantine. CDC worked with the airlines to get names of all the passengers exposed on the two flights to the state health departments where each lives. Health departments followed up on 53 passengers with possible exposure across the country: 5 from Arizona, 3 from Florida, 1 from Maryland, 1 from Massachusetts, 1 from Michigan, 12 from New Jersey, 24 from New York and 1 from North Carolina.
Luckily, no new measles cases among the exposed have been reported and the child was probably less infectious since he/she had already been ill for a few days during travel. While our routine vaccination schedule does not recommend measles vaccination until 12 months of age, infants as young as 6 months should receive measles vaccine prior to international travel. This child’s illness and all the hours of follow up by our epidemiologists, CDC, and seven other states, could have been prevented with one shot. Another great reason for immunizing our children and adolescents since these diseases are still only a plane ride away. For more information on health issues during international travel, please see the CDC Yellow Book.