State Dept Travel Advisory - Level 4

Venezuela Accounts for 68% of Central America’s Measles Cases

Venezuelan immigrants bringing measles and diphtheria to the Americas

People marching in protest of the Venezuelan government

Vaccine-preventable diseases are surging in Venezuela, according to new research presented at the 2019 European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases. 

Moreover, Venezuela’s crumbling healthcare infrastructure is now more typical of a ‘conflict-zone’. 

As an example, emigrating individuals with infectious diseases may be unknowingly causing a spill-over of diseases beyond Venezuela's boundaries.

In Venezuela, the circulation of wild measles, polio, and diphtheria had not been reported in over 10 years. 

This new study provides new data on the ongoing epidemics of measles and diphtheria in the Americas. 

  • Measles:  Measles cases from Venezuela have been reported in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. The report provides data taken over a 16-month period (June 2017-October 2018) during which time a total of 7,524 suspected measles cases have been reported in Venezuela. Of these, 5,525 were confirmed representing 68% (5,525/8,091) of measles cases in the Americas reported, and also the most deaths from measles (73/85). 
  • Diphtheria:  From January 2016 to October 2018, a total of 2,170 diphtheria cases have been reported to date with a lethality rate of 22%. In 2018, 96% (806/838) of diphtheria cases in the Americas region originate from Venezuela. Estimates suggest this could mean 3 million vulnerable Venezuelan children are now-exposed to this disease that should long have been consigned to the past.
  • Polio:  Although polio has not yet been reported in Venezuela, estimates indicate that vaccination coverage against polio has slipped from 87% in 2015 to less than 79% in 2017, thus establishing the conditions for the potential emergence of vaccine-derived polioviruses. The authors believe it is only a matter of time before this disease, eliminated from the Americas in 1971, will make a comeback.

These authors said in a press release, "The current reality in Venezuela is a conflux of plummeting vaccination coverages and ongoing outbreaks of other vaccine-preventable diseases.” 

To alert international travelers to Venezuela's health crisis, the USA, Canada, and the United Kingdom governments have issued Level 4 Travel Advisories. These travel advisories advise against visiting Venezuela. 

Additionally, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a Level 3 Travel Alert on May 15, 2019, which identifies various diseases a visitor to Venezuela should be protected from with vaccines or medications. 

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The CDC recommends travelers to Venezuela be up to date on all recommended vaccines, such as the DTaP and MMR vaccine. 

And, the CDC recommends all travelers consider typhoid, hepatitis A and yellow fever vaccines, and take prescribed medicine with them to prevent malaria. International travelers can easily request a vaccination appointment at Vax-Before-Travel. 

Vaccine discounts can be found at GoodRx. 

The study is by Dr. Adriana Tami (University Medical Center Groningen, Netherlands, and University of Carabobo, Venezuela) and Dr. Alberto Paniz-Mondolfi (IDB Biomedical Research Institute, Barquisimeto, Venezuela), and colleagues. 

These researchers conclude by saying, “Failure of timely action may bring a tsunami of new cases, not only in Venezuela but also in other countries in the Americas." 

The authors note that, since October 2014, there is a dire shortage of official epidemiological information in Venezuela; thus they did an active search of published and unpublished data. Data from the Americas were sourced from PAHO and from Venezuelan Health Observatory. Brazilian and Colombian data were accessed via their respective Ministries of Health.

Relevant Links:  CDC vaccination schedules, CDC vaccine price list, international travel alerts, and report vaccine side effects