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Apr 16, 2019

Measles – Know the Facts

Tonight, the Ministry of Health is on the alert as cases of the highly infectious measles disease have been reported in neighboring countries. There are no reported cases of measles locally, but health officials want Belizeans to be cautious and practice preventative measures to keep the disease out of the country. The disease is contagious and those who are not vaccinated are at risk of picking up measles once they are exposed to infected persons. In a release issued today, the Ministry of Health advises parents who have unvaccinated children under ten years or those with no proof of vaccination to get the vaccination immediately. In the following story, reporter Andrea Polanco tells us more about what you need to know about this disease.


Andrea Polanco, Reporting

The last time a case of measles was detected in Belize was in 1991. Today the Ministry of Health issued an alert to inform the public that the risk of measles continues to grow for Belize. In recent years the disease has been spreading and now the Ministry of Health says that neighboring countries have reported cases of the respiratory infection. Measles is a highly contagious disease where one sick person can infect as many as eighteen others.


Natalia Largaespada Beer

Dr. Natalia Largaespada Beer, Maternal & Child Health Technical Advisor, MOH

“Since the last case diagnosed in 1991, any one case in Belize, any one positive case diagnosed by a laboratory would be an outbreak for Belize. It would employ multiple interventions at community level that would need a lot of resources because we would need to go and work around that one single case in a radius of almost three miles to ensure that everyone there is updated with their vaccine and to provide vaccine to who doesn’t have it.”


So, this highly infectious disease is a threat to public health. About ninety percent of those who have never been vaccinated for measles or never had the disease before will get the diseases if they are exposed to someone infected. Measles spreads primarily through coughing and sneezing. The virus remains active and contagious in the air or on infected surfaces for up to two hours. The disease causes a total-body skin rash and flu-like symptoms, including a fever, cough, runny nose and red eyes, as well as white spots inside the mouth. Those infected will be very sick for about seven to ten days. Those most at risk are babies under the age of five, as well as HIV positive persons and others with immune deficiency disorders, but it can affect people of all ages. Un-vaccinated Front-line personnel are also at risk of contracting and transmitting the disease. There is no treatment or cure for measles. But once you’ve been vaccinated, whether recently or long ago, it is highly unlikely that you will get the disease. The vaccine is highly effective and is available free of cost at public health facilities in the country.


Dr. Natalia Largaespada Beer

“The vaccine is safe and effective. What we are asking is that if persons who come in contact with potential persons who bring the disease to Belize they need to review their vaccination card and if there is no signs of them getting measles vaccine then they would need to come to us.”


Dr. Cecilio Eck, Head of Pediatrics, K.H.M.H.

“The first MMR protected ninety-five percent. If a hundred people get it, ninety-five are fully protected. For the second one, it tries to protect the other five percent. So, it takes your personal protection up to ninety-nine point eight percent.”


Cecilio Eck

While there are no known or reported cases in Belize, if you experience symptoms likes fever and rash, you must report it immediately. While the chance of death is low, there are a number of complications associated with the viral infection.


Dr. Cecilio Eck

“Even though it is very, very contagious, the mortality, the people who died who got it is pretty low. The morbidity associated with it, blindness, and problems with learning down the road is at about thirty percent, hence our need to be aware and alert.”


Preventative measures include vaccination; washing of hands; covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing; avoiding contact such as kissing, hugging, sharing of utensils with infected persons; and if there is someone showing signs and symptoms, you must report it to doctor or nurse and avoid public contact or remain quarantined. Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.


The Ministry of Health advises that if you are not vaccinated that you should get the vaccine at least fifteen days before you travel to countries where there are reported cases of measles. The ministry says that it will continue to monitor and advise on the situation in the region and here at home.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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