Following confirmation of an imported case of measles in the Caribbean, the Public Health Department has issued an alert for travellers to be increasingly aware of the illness.
Public Health officials are asking that anyone returning from the U.K. or other European countries, as well as some states in the U.S.A. where cases of measles have been confirmed, and who are experiencing a sudden high fever accompanied by a rash, to seek medical attention immediately.
Persons should also provide their travel history to the attending physician for necessary investigation.
“If you are travelling to any of the affected areas where measles has been confirmed, safeguard yourself and your family by ensuring that your, and your children’s, immunisations against measles are up-to-date,” advised nurse Angela Graham, manager of the Health Services Authority’s Expanded Programme on Immunisation. “Unprotected children are at the greatest risk of contracting this virus, should a case be imported to the Cayman Islands. It is the responsibility of parents and guardians, alike, to ensure that their children are protected.”
Dr. Samuel Williams-Rodriguez, Acting Medical Officer of Health, reiterated that regionally, while there has been great progress in the fight against measles, there is a risk of spread and sustained transmission in areas with susceptible populations.
“Vaccination with at least two doses remains the most effective measure,” he said. “I emphasise that measles can be reintroduced as we have many residents and visitors travelling to and from the Americas and European countries. We should therefore remain vigilant.”
For complete protection, children older than 12 months should have two doses of MMR (measles mumps and rubella) vaccine. Children between 6 and 11-months, who are travelling abroad, are recommended to have one dose of MMR vaccine.
The Public Health Department reports that there has been no measles in the Cayman Islands since 1990 and that local immunisation coverage against measles and mumps is around 90 per cent among 15-month-old children, and about 97 per cent by the time they reach school age (4 to 5-years-old).
“The first sign of measles is usually a high fever which begins about 10 to 12 days after exposure to the virus,” said Dr. Williams-Rodriguez. “A runny nose, cough, along with red and watery eyes and small white spots inside the cheeks, can develop in the initial stage followed by a rash on the face and upper neck, eventually reaching the hands and feet.”
Measles is caused by a virus which grows in the cells that line the back of the throat and lungs. It is a human disease and is not known to occur in animals.
Close contact with other people following the onset of rash must be avoided for seven days.
Source: Public Health Dept. HSA