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Feb 1, 2018

What You Need to Know about Measles Threat

At the end of January, the Ministry of Health in Belize issued an advisory on the presence of measles in Central America. It’s one imported case – which means an individual contracted the disease outside of this region and traveled to Guatemala. Now, with only one confirmation in the entire region, is it much ado about nothing? Not really, measles was eliminated from the Americas since 2016 and in Belize; our last reported case of measles was in 1991. So it is vital to re-educate all Belizeans about the potential threats associated with the disease. That’s what you can expect in tonight’s healthy living.

 

Marleni Cuellar, Reporting

In September 2016, the Americas achieved a significant milestone. All of North, South and Central America had successfully eliminated measles. It was the result of a decades-long immunization campaign. While other parts of the world still had cases of measles, this milestone meant it was no longer circulating in the Americas, and that’s why the recent imported case of measles in Guatemala is a cause of concern for all of us in the Americas, including Belize.

 

Melissa Diaz

Dr. Melissa Diaz, Primary Care Coordinator, Central Health Region, MOH

“The threat is because measles is a highly contagious disease and it’s potentially life-threatening as well if you do develop the complications. The threat is that it can spread quickly and it can spread especially to infants especially younger than five years old. They would be the vulnerable population for us. Aren’t most Belizeans covered with the vaccination against measles?  Belize, the Ministry of Health, introduced the single measles vaccine in 1986. In1996 we introduced the MMR – the Measles Mumps Rubella.  I think in 1997 we did a campaign to catch the people who did not get the triple vaccine.  The targets are set at ninety-five percent. So sometimes in some areas we aren’t achieving that ninety-five percent so we’re asking mom’s dads parents to take their kids at twelve months for the vaccine and at 18 months for the second MMR.”

 

If you haven’t gotten around to vaccinating your child, or if you are unsure of your vaccination status you can still get the MMR shot. It is available at all public clinics and is included in the routine vaccination schedule.

 

Dr. Melissa Diaz

“In the years gone by millions of children died from measles. In the region of the Americas from the 1980′s to the 2000′s countries started to introduce the vaccine and that saved a lot of lives. The children were then immunized against measles. It did not spread the way that it used to in the past so it’s a very significant vaccination that you should get and it has saved lots of lives.  It’s a virus and the more common severe complications are deafness, blindness, encephalitis is one of the more deadly complications and that inflammation of the lining of the brain. Children can develop severe diarrhea, severe dehydration sepsis, multi-organ shut down. So those of some of the not common complications but those are some of the complications that may occur with measles.”

 

Currently, the United Kingdom is facing a measles outbreak. Other European countries are also seeing cases as well which means that there must be heightened awareness in this region.

 

Dr. Melissa Diaz

“When we look at even this imported cases presently, and we look at improving our vaccination coverage for the twelve months and eighteen months but we are also looking at the public – not a mass campaign to vaccinate but looking at the ports of entries and the people that work at these port of entries because they would also be a vulnerable population because they would be the first people that an infected tourist or person would come in contact with.”

 

There are no current cases of measles in Belize. There last reported case was in 1991. So, since this is an unknown illness for many Dr Diaz explains the signs and symptoms to look out for.

 

Dr. Melissa Diaz

“We have two case-definition – slightly different. First case-definition is a person who presents with fever. Usually, the fever is continuous for maybe three to four days with a rash. Now the rash starts from the face or neck and works its way down to the trunk associated with – we call it the three C’s – choryza which is a runny nose, runny eyes,  like cold symptoms a cough or conjunctivitis. The Second case definition a patient with fever again three to four days the rash may not be there with the three C’s so a patient with fever cough choryza or conjunctivitis but the significant difference in the second case-definition is that they have to have a travel history to the UK over the last days.”

 

If you have any of these symptoms, especially if you haven’t been vaccinated and recently traveled to an outbreak area visit your nearest healthcare center immediately.

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