Around the World: Travel Means Disease Can Come from Anywhere

Published on in Parents PACK

Today it is possible to board a plane or a train and travel to almost anywhere around the globe. While this is good for those who wish to travel the world, it complicates efforts to contain the spread of disease between populations that may otherwise not be exposed to each other. Public health officials provide guidance to travelers to other regions of the world; however, everyday citizens may not consider the potential for the spread of pathogens imported from other countries, especially if it is their neighbor, friend, or relative who is traveling. The ease with which we can interact with others around the world should remind us how quickly a pathogen can find a whole new population to infect. This concept is important to think about especially when it comes to vaccine-preventable diseases and herd immunity.

The World Health Organization (WHO) offers many useful tools  for finding immunization rates around the world. For example, this interactive map illustrates immunization rates for the first dose of measles vaccine among 1-year-olds. Users are able to see how different countries compare when it comes to measles vaccine coverage. For example, Austria reports a 76 percent immunization rate; Guatemala, 67 percent; and Ukraine, 79 percent. Because countries with rates of immunization lower than 92-94 percent for measles vaccine coverage are at greater risk for outbreaks, travelers to or from those countries could easily spread the disease to susceptible people in communities throughout the world. 

Materials in this section are updated as new information and vaccines become available. The Vaccine Education Center staff regularly reviews materials for accuracy.

You should not consider the information in this site to be specific, professional medical advice for your personal health or for your family's personal health. You should not use it to replace any relationship with a physician or other qualified healthcare professional. For medical concerns, including decisions about vaccinations, medications and other treatments, you should always consult your physician or, in serious cases, seek immediate assistance from emergency personnel.