Health Ministry Monitoring Island for Measles

Measles is NO joke. I had it as a child in England, and remember being ill in bed (with the curtains shut tight, for some reason) for what seemed like a very long time. Parents are urged to get their children FULLY vaccinated (two doses). It is highly contagious and is more dangerous when you are an adult.

There are measles outbreaks (defined as 3 or more cases) in five U.S. states currently, totaling 555 cases as of April 11, 2019. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “These outbreaks are linked to travelers who brought measles back from other countries such as Israel, Ukraine, and the Philippines, where large measles outbreaks are occurring.”

An English woman recently posted some upsetting photos of her baby girl with measles (she was too young to be vaccinated yet). In a Facebook post she said, “Measles is not “just a rash,” it can cause blindness, encephalitis, and pneumonia. We need to do more people. Get your children vaccinated.”

According to the latest Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) update dated April 18, 2019, this year there are confirmed cases in this region in Argentina, the Bahamas, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Peru, the United States of America, Uruguay, and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Last year, there were fatal cases in Brazil and Venezuela.

I am a bit late in posting this, but please take this seriously and share the information. You can read much more about measles on the WHO website here. As the WHO points out, “The measles vaccine has been in use since the 1960s. It is safe, effective and inexpensive.” Make sure you are (or have been) vaccinated today!

Health Ministry Monitoring Island for Measles

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                  

Attention: All News Editors/Reporters

Kingston, Jamaica. April 15, 2019: The Ministry of Health is monitoring the island for imported cases of measles given the recent increase in cases in the United States and across the Region. As of 30 March 2019, there were 3,674 suspected cases and 596 confirmed cases in the Region of the Americas with over 300 of the confirmed cases from the USA. In Europe, in January 2019, there were 881 cases of measles reported from 19 countries.

Measles is a highly contagious illness caused by a virus that replicates in the nose and throat of an infected child or adult.  In order to stop the disease from spreading, 95% of children in Jamaica need to be fully vaccinated with the two doses – MMR1 at 12 months and MMR2 at 18 months. [MMR = Measles, Mumps and Rubella].

Minister of Health, Dr. Christopher Tufton, however, noted that “there has been a decrease in uptake of the vaccines over the last few years and in 2018, Jamaica had 89% coverage of MMR1 and 82% coverage of MMR2.  We are therefore appealing to all parents to visit the nearest health center to ensure that their children are fully vaccinated as measles kills more children than any other vaccine-preventable disease.”

 Measles Complications

Chief Medical Officer in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Jacqueline Bisasor-McKenzie, says, “most cases of Measles are mild and symptoms usually appear 10-12 days after exposure to an infected person but may appear as early as seven days and as late as 21 days after exposure. Measles typically begins with a high fever, cough, runny nose and red, watery eyes.

Two or three days after symptoms begin, tiny white spots may appear inside the mouth. Three to five days after symptoms begin, a rash breaks out, usually as flat red spots that appear on the face at the hairline and spread downward to the neck, trunk, arms, legs, and feet. Small raised bumps may also appear on top of the flat red spots.”

She further noted that “complications from measles include ear infection and diarrhea, while severe complications include pneumonia, swelling of the brain and death. Pregnant women may give birth prematurely or have a low-birth-weight baby.”

In response to the increase in cases worldwide, the Ministry, since the beginning of the year enhanced its response, including sensitization and training of approximately 60 healthcare professionals in the health regions in measles outbreak response, with mandatory training of rapid response teams across the island. Information relating to the revised target groups and parish coverage for MMR1 and MMR2 vaccines has been communicated to all parish health teams.

Additionally, the Ministry is recirculating communication to sensitize doctors and other health professionals about the increased risk of measles importation and to heighten the index of suspicion for measles. The communication is also a reminder to doctors and nurses regarding the surveillance protocol for fever and rash, including the importance of immediate Class I notification and sampling on the first contact and prioritizing vaccination of all children in the target group with two doses of MMR vaccine.

A public education campaign has commenced sensitizing members of the public to guard against this infection. Persons may call 888-ONE-LOVE (663-5683) or visit the nearest health center for more information.


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