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Travel Smart: Get Vaccinated

Couple looking at travel brochuresBefore you travel internationally, ensure that you are up to date on all your routine vaccines, as well as travel vaccines.

More and more Americans are travelling internationally each year. In fact more than a third of Americans have a passport – an increase from only 10 years ago. It is important to remember that some types of international travel, especially to developing countries and rural areas, have higher health risks. These risks depend on a number of things including:

  • Where you are traveling
  • Your activities while traveling
  • Your current health status
  • Your vaccination history

2014 Measles Outbreaks

From January – July 25, there were 585 measles cases reported in the U.S. Almost all of these cases, 99%, were associated with international travel.

Get vaccinated to protect yourself and stop the spread of measles. Make sure you and your family members are up-to-date on your measles (MMR) vaccine. Ask your doctor if everyone has received all recommended doses of vaccine for best protection.

Vaccines can help protect you against a number of serious diseases, including typhoid and yellow fever, that are found in some developing countries. Vaccine-preventable diseases that are rarely seen in the United States, like polio, can still be found in other parts of the world and measles still occurs in many countries.  There were more than 120,000 estimated measles deaths worldwide in 2012, and this viral illness remains a leading cause of death among children in some developing countries. A measles outbreak in the Philippines this year has led to about 40,000 measles cases and 70 people have died from the disease.  The United States has seen importation of measles cases from about 20 countries this year. CDC recommends that all U.S. travelers 6 months of age or older be protected from measles and, if needed, receive MMR vaccine prior to departure.   

Protect Yourself and Plan Ahead

Talk with your healthcare professional when you are planning international travel, especially if you have any health conditions. Since not all primary healthcare professionals stock travel vaccines, you may need to visit a travel clinic to receive the vaccines you need.

  • Make an appointment with your healthcare professional or a travel clinic at least 4-6 weeks prior to any international travel. This allows you time to complete any vaccine series and gives your body time to build up immunity. Find out vaccine recommendations and requirements for your travel destination.
  • When talking to your health care professional about your travel, also ask about routine vaccines. Make sure you are up-to-date on your routine vaccines like the MMR vaccine before your travel.
  • Check if the country you are traveling to requires proof of Yellow Fever vaccine. This vaccine can only be given by a registered provider and must be given at least 10 days prior to travel. You'll need to get a stamped vaccine certificate as well. Find a Yellow Fever Vaccination Clinic.

Travel Smart and Stay Healthy

In addition to ensuring you have both the routine and travel vaccines you need, be a smart traveler by following these helpful hints:

  • Be careful what you eat and drink.
    • Only eat fully cooked food that is served hot. This includes fruits and vegetables unless you can peel them yourself.
    • Eat and drink only pasteurized dairy products.
    • Only drink beverages that are bottled and have a seal that is unbroken (bottled water, sodas, etc.). Do not use ice in any drinks.
    • For more information, see our Food and Water Safety tips.
  • Bugs (including mosquitoes, ticks, and some flies) can spread a number of diseases. Use insect repellent and learn other ways to Avoid Bug Bites. In malaria risk areas, make sure you sleep in an air conditioned or screened room or under a bed net.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Don't touch animals, especially monkeys, dogs and birds. Follow other tips to Be Safe Around Animals.
Couple traveling abroad

Immunization is one of the best ways to protect travelers from vaccine-preventable diseases.

Learn More

  • Find out about the health risks and recommended travel-related vaccines and medicines you might need for your destination.
  • Get the latest health updates for areas you plan to travel to.
  • Be sure to be up-to-date on your routine vaccines. Take our vaccination quiz to find out which routine vaccines are recommended for you and discuss your results with your healthcare professional during your next appointment. Remember many diseases that are now uncommon in the U.S., such as measles, occur commonly in other countries.
  • Learn about common travel health topics and specific diseases which can affect you while traveling.
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