Measles in Africa

Warning - Level 3, Avoid Nonessential Travel
Alert - Level 2, Practice Enhanced Precautions
Watch - Level 1, Practice Usual Precautions

Key Points

  • Measles is a risk in many parts of the world, including Africa.
  • Some countries in Africa are reporting increased numbers of cases (outbreaks) of measles.
  • All travelers to Africa, including infants and pre-school aged children, should be fully vaccinated against measles, according to CDC immunization schedules.
map of Africa
Map: Countries in Africa with reported measles outbreaks  (see larger map)
What is measles?

Caused by a highly contagious virus, measles spreads from person to person by breathing, coughing, or sneezing. Signs and symptoms of measles include rash, high fever and a cough, runny nose, or red, watery eyes. People can spread measles up to 4 days before and 4 days after they have a rash. Measles can lead to serious complications, such as pneumonia (infection of the lungs), and even death.

What is the current situation?

Measles is an ongoing risk around the world. In Africa, health officials in the countries listed below have reported measles outbreaks, meaning the number of measles cases is higher than normal. All travelers to Africa, including infants and pre-school aged children, should be fully protected against measles, especially when going to

  • Angola
  • Burundi
  • Cameroon
  • Central African Republic
  • Chad
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Ethiopia
  • Guinea
  • Kenya
  • Liberia
  • Mali
  • Mozambique
  • Niger
  • Nigeria
  • Somalia
  • South Africa
  • South Sudan
  • Togo

Keep in mind that destinations reporting measles outbreaks are not the only places where infection is a risk. Locations where measles is common may have many cases but not be considered to have an outbreak. Measles can also spread in airports, on public transportation, and at tourist attractions. Thus, it is critical for travelers to be protected against measles, regardless of destination.

What can travelers do to protect themselves and others from measles?

Be sure that you and your travel companions (infants 6 months of age and older, children, and adults) are fully protected against measles before any overseas travel.

Vaccination with a measles-containing vaccine is the best way to make sure that you are protected. There are two measles-containing vaccines available in the United States: measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) for those aged 6 months and older, and measles, mumps, rubella & varicella (MMRV) vaccine for children aged 1 through 12 years. If you are 12 months of age or older you need two doses of measles vaccine to be fully protected. Infants 6 through 11 months of age should receive one dose of vaccine, though this dose does not count as the first dose in the routine childhood vaccination series. You are also protected if you have laboratory confirmation of a past measles infection or if you were born before 1957.

If you are not sure if you or your travel companions are fully protected against measles, schedule an appointment to see your healthcare provider at least one month before traveling so that you have enough time to get vaccinated.

Some people should not get a measles-containing vaccine or should wait. If you don’t think you can safely receive a measles-containing vaccine, talk to your doctor and consider making alternative travel plans.

What can clinicians do?

A self-report of a vaccination or disease history is not adequate evidence of protection. Vaccinate any traveler 6 months of age or older going overseas who does not have written documentation of vaccination or other presumptive evidence of measles immunity.

Provide measles vaccine to overseas travelers according to CDC’s recommendations:

  1. Infants (6 through 11 months old). Give one dose of measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine. This dose does not count as the first dose in the routine childhood vaccination series.
  2. People 12 months old or older, without other presumptive evidence of measles immunity. Give two appropriately spaced doses of measles-containing vaccine. For MMR, this means administering the second dose at least 28 days after the first. For MMRV, this means administering the second dose at least 3 months after the first.
  3. People 13 months or older who have written documentation of one dose and no other presumptive evidence of measles immunity. Give one additional dose of measles-containing vaccine before travel.

Consider measles when evaluating patients with fever and rash, especially those who have recently traveled overseas or who have close contacts who have recently traveled.  

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