Infectious Diseases: What to Know and How to Avoid Them

With news of measles outbreaks in the United States and worldwide proliferating recently, health organizations are warning travelers to think about infectious diseases before travelling—and that means event professionals need to think about them too.

The Measles Outbreak

Northern Virginia health officials warned those who were at Dulles International Airport’s (IAD) baggage claim and Terminal A on June 2 of possible measles exposure. The announcement came after a child in the region contracted measles days after passing through the airport. This exposure warning is just one in a series of outbreaks that have swept the country this year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there have been at least 1,022 cases across 28 states since January 1, the most since measles was declared eliminated in 2000.

Measles cases in the United States overwhelmingly begin abroad and are brought stateside by unsuspecting travelers. The U.S. outbreaks in recent years followed an outbreak in Europe, specifically Ukraine, for which The European Vaccine Action Plan 2015-2020 (EVAP) was developed. This plan states that at least 95 percent of individuals must be vaccinated to ensure community protection for everyone. According to the CDC, 11 U.S. states had vaccine coverage levels of less than 90 percent in 2017.

Related: Essential Guide to Feverishly Planning a Flu Vaccine Clinic at Events

What to Know About Infectious Diseases

Infectious diseases are diseases caused by organisms—such as bacteria, viruses, fungi or parasites. They are transmitted from person-to-person, through insect bites or animals, or through contaminated food or water. One of the main issues with them—specifically measles—is that contraction of the disease can happen weeks before symptoms begin to show.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that every child receive life-time measles vaccinations and adults who are not vaccinated should consider vaccination before traveling. According to WHO, “countries with measles outbreaks have experienced a range of challenges in recent years including a decline or stagnation in overall routine immunization coverage in some cases, low coverage at subnational level or among some marginalized groups and immunity gaps in older populations.”

Related: Become the Healthy Planner with These Strategies

Check Yourself: Steps to Take When Travelling

  • Check the WHO and CDC websites to see if you need specific vaccines for your destination
  • Make sure you eat and drink hygienically when abroad
  • Consider getting the measles vaccination if you have not already
  • Make attendees aware of any potential breakouts (currently, measles) and encourage vaccination when possible

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