Cayman earns measles-free status

Cayman is a measles- and German measles-free zone, according to the Islands’ Public Health department.

The department is preparing to certify Cayman as being free of measles, rubella (German measles) and congenital rubella syndrome since no new local cases of rubella has been reported since 2001, no cases of measles have been seen since 1991, and no incidents of congenital rubella syndrome, which is passed to a newborn baby from a mother infected with the rubella virus during pregnancy, since 1996.

“Based on the documentation and verification, we are of the view that we have interrupted the occurrence of endemic measles and rubella viruses and subsequently, congenital rubella syndrome, in the Cayman Islands,” said Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kiran Kumar.

“We are ready to submit our report to the Pan American Health Organisation in order to get certified that these conditions are eliminated in Cayman,” he said.

However, just to be sure no cases have been missed, Dr. Kumar is urging anyone who diagnosed in the last three years with any of the three conditions to contact him on 244-2621 or Public Health Nurse Alice-Jane Ebanks on 244-2627.

According to Dr. Kumar, 37 health and educational professionals from private and public sectors have verified that they have not seen any cases of these conditions in Cayman during the last decade and a review of medical records for the past five years revealed no cases of congenital rubella syndrome.

Both measles and rubella are transmitted via a respiratory route, including coughing and sneezing. People with measles or rubella have fever and rash and if they are suspected of having either of the diseases, they are given blood tests to confirm or rule out the virus.

The World Health Organisation describes measles is one of the leading causes of death among young children. More than 95 per cent of measles deaths occur in low-income countries with weak health infrastructures.

Widespread vaccination programmes resulted in a 78 per cent drop in measles deaths between 2000 and 2008 worldwide, although there was a resurgence of the disease in Europe earlier this year, leading Cayman to issue a travel alert to travellers to the European continent 
in May.

While measles and German measles are generally mild diseases, complications and deaths can arise from measles, while congenital rubella syndrome manifests as congenital heart defects, congenital cataracts or hearing impairment in newborn babies.

In 1988, CARICOM ministers of health declared that indigenous measles should be eliminated in the Caribbean sub-region by 1995. The rapid reduction of rubella cases in the region led the Council for Human and Social Development of the Caribbean Community in April 1998 to pass the Resolution on the Eradication of Rubella by the end of 2000.

The measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, known as MMR, was introduced into Cayman’s childhood immunisation programme in 1983 and offered at 15 months of age.

A recent audit of the records of children born in 2007 and 2008 showed that about 99 percent of Cayman’s children are immunised with 
MMR vaccine.

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