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Measles and vaccination

Published:Sunday | February 22, 2015 | 12:00 AMRandy Bowman

Last December, what should have been a playful trip to Disneyland in California left seven persons affected with what is classified as one of the worst diseases among children, measles, causing officials in the United States to declare an outbreak.

Since then, state health departments in California, Colorado, Utah, and Washington have confirmed cases of the extremely contagious virus, the Los Angeles Times reported.

According to the Ministry of Health, Jamaica has been free of local transmission of measles since 1991 because of the success of its Expanded Programme on Immunisation. But citizens are still advised to remain vigilant, as the disease can cross borders. The first symptoms of measles include a fever, conjunctivitis, or sore eyes and a runny nose.

General practitioner Dr Garth Rattray explains, "Measles is a viral infection that causes skin and possibly systemic problems. It can affect the central nervous system and lead to a viral infection of the brain. It is (at the very least) extremely disabling and would significantly affect our schools and workforce."

As the disease manifests itself inside the body, small white spots usually develop inside the mouth a day or two after contracting measles, along with a harsh, dry cough, reduction in appetite, tiredness and aches and pains. After several days, a rash erupts on the face and upper neck, which spreads downwards, reaching the hands and feet.

Rattray added: "Measles is very contagious and is spread through the air by coughing and sneezing, thus proximity to someone with the virus can transmit it like the common cold."

The measles vaccine is part of the mandatory vaccines and is given as a tri-valent (triple) vaccine - MMR - to children in two doses, at age one, and again in a year or two after that or even up to 12 years old. But if caught, Rattray encourages: "Affected persons can go to any doctor but, if suspected, it is prudent not to interact with other patients or even be in the waiting room ... . Inform the physician or nurse or receptionist of any suspicion and seek some sort of isolation from everyone else."

He continued: "So far, as far as I am aware, no effect here as yet. But remember that our children receive mandatory vaccines against the disease."