The CDC Yellow Book Is Your Secret Weapon Against Measles (And Other Diseases You Can Get While Traveling)

Apr 20, 2019

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If you’re traveling abroad, you should be reading the Yellow Book, says Dr. Manisha Patel.

Patel is the team leader for measles epidemiology for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and has been busy lately discussing the recent, frequent measles outbreaks. In a conversation we had with her in March, she emphatically recommended that all travelers planning on venturing outside the US get familiar with the 2018 CDC Health Information for International Travel guide. Or, in more colloquial terms, the CDC Yellow Book.

The CDC Yellow Book is an exhaustive guide of health advice tailored to international travelers. It’s published every two years and can be used as a reference for health professionals, or a resource for everyday tourists visiting other countries. The book covers a wide range of topics including the US government’s current travel health guidelines, pre-travel vaccine recommendations, and health advice specific to your destination. It also provides useful maps, tables and many, many charts.

The Yellow Book has been around, in some form, for quite a while (the oldest incarnations we’ve found dated back to the early 90s.) In its most recent version, health professionals added a recommendation that travelers should absolutely be vaccinated against measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) before leaving the US. It also has an entire chapter (Chapter 3 in the “Infectious Disease Related to Travel” section) that breaks down nearly every known aspect of the measles virus from epidemiology, diagnosis, prevention, treatment, vaccination and beyond. Within this section, the CDC also recommends that all international travelers who aren’t sure about their MMR immunity status check to see if they have had two rounds of shots before leaving the country. The best way to prevent measles is the vaccine — which offers 97% immunity.

Aside from measles information, the 2018 edition of the Yellow Book includes up-to-date advice on Zika, Ebola, MERS and cholera (with vaccine recommendations). It also has a wealth of destination-specific guides with considerations for different types of travel like wilderness expeditions, studying abroad, work trips and more.

The CDC Yellow Book is available in multiple forms. You can download it onto your smartphone (Androids included), peruse it here, on the CDC website, or buy your very own physical copy if you’re thinking of traveling off the grid.

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