Wed | Nov 25, 2020

Jamaican travellers urged take precautions against measles

Published:Thursday | June 13, 2019 | 12:00 PM
A woman is given the MMR vaccine - AP photo

The Ministry of Health and Wellness is advising Jamaican travellers to countries known to have circulating measles virus to ensure that they are adequately protected.

At this time of year when Jamaicans are preparing for travel overseas, the Ministry is reminding Jamaicans to ensure that they and in particular, their children, are fully vaccinated against measles with the Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) vaccine.

It notes that, as at May 17, 2019, the countries in the region that had reported confirmed measles cases were Argentina, the Bahamas, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Peru, USA, Uruguay, and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

Jamaica’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr Jacquiline Bisasor McKenzie, notes that “measles is a highly contagious viral disease affecting mainly children. Infection spreads rapidly even before symptoms are evident and therefore has the potential to cause outbreaks. Vaccination is the only way to prevent the spread of measles. Two doses of the MMR vaccine are needed to provide full protection against the disease.”

“The Ministry is seeking the full cooperation of parents and guardians to ensure that their children receive the two doses of the MMR vaccine, especially before travelling to a country that is known to have reported cases of measles.” Bisasor McKenzie added.

Jamaica has prioritised MMR vaccination for children 10 years old and younger and the Ministry of Health and Wellness provides vaccines free of cost to children.

Persons who are unsure of their vaccination status should contact their healthcare provider or visit a health centre.

Persons, who develop a fever and rash, especially after visiting a country known to have measles cases, must contact their healthcare provider or visit a health centre immediately.

The Ministry says there has been no case of measles in Jamaica.

Yellow Fever Vaccine

Additionally, the Ministry wishes to remind persons travelling to countries known to have circulating yellow fever virus that vaccination against yellow fever is a requirement for travel.

The Yellow Fever vaccine is provided at a cost at the Montego Bay Type V Health Centre in St James and the Slipe Pen Road Comprehensive Health Centre in Kingston.

Here are some facts you should know about measles:

What is measles?

Measles is a serious viral infection of the upper respiratory tract (breathing tubes) that causes a rash and fever. It is extremely contagious and can even cause death in rare cases.

How is measles spread?

Measles spreads when an infected person breathes, coughs or sneezes spreading respiratory droplets or airborne spray to another individual.

One can catch measles by being in the same room as an infected person, even up to two hours after the person has left the room.

Almost everyone who is exposed to measles and never got the MMR vaccine will catch the disease. Infected persons are most contagious three days before the rash develops on them.

What are the symptoms of measles?

Measles usually begins with a very high fever. The incubation period usually lasts from 10 to 12 days between catching the virus and the beginning of the fever. Other symptoms may include:

* Runny nose, cough, pink/red eyes

* Rash consisting of tiny red spots and bumps starting from the head and spreading to the rest of the body

* Bluish-white spots (Koplik's spots) on a red base inside the mouth

* Loss of appetite

* Tiredness

* Aches and pains

* Diarrhoea

How is measles treated?

There is no cure for measles and so treatment is geared towards the symptoms, to make the individual more comfortable. These include medication for itching, fever, and other flu-like symptoms. Specific treatment, like antibiotics, may be prescribed to treat complications of measles. In some cases the person has to be hospitalised.

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