Measles, mumps, rubella

Latest update: - Authors: Mieke Croughs, Ula Maniewski-Kelner

Measles is caused by a highly contagious virus. The measles virus is transmitted via small droplets of saliva, which are released for example when speaking. The infection causes skin rash, high fever, runny nose, watery eyes, but can also be complicated by pneumonia, ear infection and even death. In rare cases, neurological problems can develop several years after the infection.

Mumps is caused by a virus. The virus is transmitted via small droplets of saliva, which are released for example when speaking. The infection causes fever and swollen salivary glands. Sometimes the infection also causes inflammation of the ovaries or the testicles, which can cause fertility problems later in life. In rare cases, people can become deaf.

Rubella or German measles is caused by a virus. The rubella virus is transmitted via small droplets of saliva, which are released for example when speaking. It causes a skin rash, fever and swollen glands. Infection during pregnancy can cause abnormalities in the foetus. 

Risk areas

Measles, mumps and rubella occur all over the world.

In certain countries in Africa, measles is still a significant cause of death in young children.

In general, the risk of contracting measles during a trip is highest in countries where few children are vaccinated, such as in Africa and Asia. But even in Europe and America, not all children are vaccinated, which results in regular measles outbreaks

Prevention

Vaccination

The measles-mumps-rubella vaccine forms part of the  basic vaccination schedule. This vaccine has been offered to all infants at the age of twelve months in Belgium since 1985 and a second dose at the age of ten years has been offered since 1995. Two doses provides optimal protection, generally for life.

People who were born before 1970 generally had these infections as a child and are therefore immune. 

Which travellers are eligible for this vaccination?

All travellers born after 1970 who have not had measles and who have not been vaccinated twice. In Flanders, the MMR vaccine is available free of charge to this target group.

Vaccination schedule for travellers

  • If you were born after 1970, have never been vaccinated and have never had measles, then an initial dose, followed by a second dose at least four weeks later, is recommended. In case of doubts about vaccination status, the vaccine can be administered without additional risks.
  • If you were born after 1970 and have been vaccinated once, then a second dose is recommended.
  • Infants who have not yet received measles vaccination and older children who have not yet received a second measles vaccination can be vaccinated early when travelling to high-risk countries.

It is best not to administer the MMR vaccine and the yellow fever vaccine simultaneously, but rather at an interval of at least four weeks. 

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