Health officials warn against measles outbreak

Local health officials are warning parents to ensure their children’s vaccinations are kept up to date in the wake of a measles outbreak in Canada.

“It is the duty of parents and guardians to ensure that their children are protected,” said medical officer of health Dr. Kiran Kumar.

Some 375 cases have been confirmed in the ongoing measles outbreak in Fraser Valley, British Columbia, Dr. Kumar said, adding, “the suspected primary case had a history of recent travel to the Netherlands.”

Dr. Kumar confirmed the outbreak occurred among an unvaccinated group of children and that most cases were linked to one school in the area.

“This occurrence highlights the importance of ensuring vaccinations required are up to date,” he said.

Measles is a serious viral infection and highly contagious disease with protection of around 90 per cent against infection from local immunization.

For 15-month-old babies, local immunization coverage is around 90 percent, and 97 percent among children between the ages of four to five years old, according to health officials.

Unprotected children are at the greatest risk of catching the virus if a case ever gets imported to the Cayman Islands, Dr. Kumar said.

Health officials warn that although Canada has achieved elimination status, measles continues to circulate in other countries and importations are expected.

This year, the Caribbean celebrated its 23rd year without an indigenous case of the measles. However, measles still remains endemic in many developing countries, particularly in Africa and Asia.

No local cases

While there has been no local cases reported in the Cayman Islands since 1990, Dr. Kumar warns that parents should not become complacent when it comes to keeping children vaccinated.

“I emphasise that [measles] can be reintroduced as we have many residents and visitors traveling to and from the affected areas and we should therefore remain vigilant to ensure everyone is protected against measles,” Dr. Kumar said.

Children are recommended to get two doses of MMR vaccine, for ample protection against measles. MMR is the combined vaccine that protects against measles, mumps and rubella, to get protection against measles.

Members of the public can contact the Public Health Department or their district health center to discuss immunizations needs for parents and children.

Symptoms

The first sign of measles is usually a high fever which begins about 10 to 12 days after exposure to the virus from a measles case. A runny nose, cough along with red and watery eyes and small white spots inside the cheeks are the initial symptoms followed by a rash on the face and upper neck eventually reaching the hands and feet.

Close contact with other people for seven days following onset of rash must be avoided.