Immunisation for children offered at no cost at government health centres
As Jamaica closely monitors the measles outbreak, which has affected several states in the United States and Mexico, Chief Medical Officer Dr Marion Bullock DuCasse is reminding persons that immunisation for children against certain vaccine preventable diseases, including measles, is offered at no cost at government health centres.
DuCasse is, therefore, urging parents who have not yet fully immunised their children for their age to do so immediately. Compulsory immunisation for children begins at birth and continues until six years old.
DuCasse indicated, however, that Jamaica has been free of endemic (local) transmission of measles since 1991 because of the success of its Expanded Programme on Immunisation.
"Through the Expanded Programme on Immunisation which was established in 1977, endemic measles transmission was interrupted in 1991. Our immunisation coverage is usually in the 90 per cent range. Despite this, we have seen how diseases can cross borders, and so we have to ensure that we keep a close watch on the situation in the United States and any other country where measles cases occur. All Jamaicans are, therefore, urged to ensure that they and their children are protected," DuCasse said.
The most common and first symptoms of measles include a fever, conjunctivitis or sore eyes and a runny nose. Small white spots usually develop inside the mouth a day or so later. A harsh dry cough is usual, as well as a reduction in appetite, tiredness, aches and pains. After several days, a rash erupts on the face and upper neck, which spreads downwards, reaching the hands and feet.
Measles is caused by a virus and is highly contagious. It is spread through direct contact and through the air. Complications include pneumonia and can lead to death.
The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) issued a measles alert on January 28 because of the outbreak that is affecting several US states and Mexico. The agency has recommended enhanced vigilance given the strong travel ties between the Caribbean and the USA, and given that the region is in the midst of the tourism high season.