Following a measles outbreak reported in Canada in March, the Public Health Department is issuing a health advisory.
“A measles outbreak has been reported in the Fraser East Health Service Delivery area in British Colombia near Vancouver. Most cases are linked to one school in the area” said Dr Kiran Kumar, Medical Officer of Health.
“There have been about 375 cases in the ongoing outbreak in Fraser Valley in British Columbia, where the suspected primary case (first case) had a history of recent travel to the Netherlands. The outbreak has occurred among an unvaccinated group” he added.
“Unprotected children are at the greatest risk of contracting this disease, should a case be imported. It is the duty of parents and guardians to ensure that their children are protected. This occurrence highlights the importance of ensuring vaccinations required are up to date” Dr. Kumar emphasized.
Measles is a serious viral infection and highly contagious disease, with the best protection against infection being immunization. While Canada has achieved elimination status, measles continues to circulate widely in other countries and importations are expected. Importantly, immunization coverage in the outbreak area is reportedly low with the index school affected reportedly having no vaccination among students.
Endemic measles has been eliminated in the Americas, with the last case reported in 2002. The Caribbean itself, this year celebrated its twenty third year without an indigenous case of the measles. However, measles is still common in many developing countries, particularly in Africa and Asia and people visiting these regions should pay attention to possible symptoms.
There has been no measles in the Cayman Islands since 1990 and local immunization coverage against measles and mumps is around 90% among 15 months old and about 97 percent by the time they reach school entry age (4-5yrs). However, we should not be complacent.
“While measles has been eliminated in the region, once again I emphasise that it can be reintroduced as we have many residents and visitors travelling to and from the affected areas and we should therefore remain vigilant to ensure everyone is protected against measles” Dr. Kumar noted, urging anyone to contact the Public Health Department or District Health Centre regarding their immunizations needs for themselves or their children. It is essential to have two doses of MMR vaccine to get protection against measles.
The first sign of measles is usually a high fever which begins about 10 to 12 days after exposure to the virus from a measles case. A runny nose, cough along with red and watery eyes and small white spots inside the cheeks are the initial symptoms followed by a rash on the face and upper neck eventually reaching the hands and feet. Close contact with other people for seven days following onset of rash must be avoided.
Issued by the Public Health Department