Canadian measles cases highlights potential return

| 21/04/2014

(CNS): Although Cayman has been measles free for over 23 years a recent outbreak in Canada has led the public health department to urge people to be vigilant against its possible return. Local immunization coverage against measles and mumps is around 90% among 15 month old babies and about 97 percent by the time kids reach school entry age  around four and five years old. But in light of the 375 cases now reported in an on-going outbreak in Fraser Valley in British Columbia, Dr Kiran Kumar, Medical Officer of Health warned people not to be complacent.   

“While measles has been eliminated in the region, once again I emphasise that it can be reintroduced as we have many residents and visitors travelling to and from the affected areas and we should therefore remain vigilant to ensure everyone is protected against measles” he said.

People are asked to contact the Public Health Department or District Health Centre regarding their immunizations needs for themselves or their children.  It is essential to have two doses of MMR vaccine to get protection against measles.

Dr Kumar said the Canadian outbreak is suspected to have come from Europe.

“A measles outbreak has been reported in the Fraser East Health Service Delivery area in British Colombia near Vancouver. Most cases are linked to one school in the area” said the local public health boss, adding the suspected primary case had a history of recent travel to the Netherlands.  “The outbreak has occurred among an unvaccinated group” he explained. “Unprotected children are at the greatest risk of contracting this disease, should a case be imported. It is the duty of parents and guardians to ensure that their children are protected. This occurrence highlights the importance of ensuring vaccinations required are up to date,” he added.

Measles is a serious viral infection and highly contagious disease, with the best protection against infection being immunization. While Canada has achieved elimination status, measles continues to circulate widely in other countries and importations are expected. Importantly, immunization coverage in the outbreak area is reportedly low with the index school affected reportedly having no vaccination among students.

Endemic measles has been eliminated in the Americas, with the last case reported in 2002. The Caribbean itself, this year celebrated its twenty third year without an indigenous case of the measles. However, measles is still common in many developing countries, particularly in Africa and Asia and people visiting these regions should pay attention to possible symptoms. There has been no measles in the Cayman Islands since 1990.

The first sign of measles is usually a high fever whichbegins 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.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I should acknowledge that when I was a child I did get measles and so did my sister and brother and all my friends. It started off with a fever, runny nose, sore throat and white spots inside our mouths and then an itchy red rash on our faces that spread all over and I remember wearing sunglasses in the house because the light hurt my eyes.

    My parents and grandparents and their sisters and brothers also had measles when they were children.

    When I was growing up, measles, mumps, rubella and chickenpox were infections we all experienced but our parents didn't worry about those childhood diseases like they worried about polio.

    People born before 1957 have naturally acquired immunity to measles and we passed antibodies on to our babies when they were born to protect them from measles during the first year of life. Things have definitely changed in the past 60 years.

    Because vaccine antibodies are different from naturally-acquired measles antibodies, young vaccinated moms today cannot give longer lasting naturally acquired measles antibodies to their newborns.

    • Anonymous says:

      For some measles has extremely dangerous and life changing negative impact.  So please do not try to diminish the importance of immunization.

  2. Anonymous says:

    These problems are caused by ignorant parents not immunizing their kids.  The worst ones as those that believe bogus claims on the internet about the negative impact of immunization.  Outbreaks become serious when a certain percentage of children in a group are not immunized and the crazies have caused the population to have the percentage in certain areas.