Editorial comment: On the alert for measles

Measles vaccine Picture: JOVESA NAISUA/FILE

So we now have 10 confirmed cases of measles!

In a press release sent last night, the Ministry of Health confirmed the latest case was that of a 25-year-old pregnant woman from Samabula, Suva.

The woman was presented to the Colonial War Memorial Hospital (CWMH) on November 21 and is admitted under isolation.

The Suva subdivisional outbreak response team, according to the statement last night, responded to the notification of the new case.

It also confirmed a two-year-old who was confirmed as the ninth case was discharged from the CWMH while a 11-year-old student of the Fiji School for the Blind was a suspected case and was isolated at the school awaiting test results.

Students and staff at the school, the statement confirmed, were vaccinated and quarantined before being cleared.

As part of the quarantine process, the Ministry of Health and Medical Services is also urging employers to support efforts to control the outbreak by not penalising employees placed under quarantine.

The latest confirmed case is bound to raise some concern, considering the fact the woman is from Samabula.

There will also be questions raised about our preparedness for any growth in this number.

We wonder whether a concerted effort must be made now to reinforce vaccination and spread this outside the current boundary.

We must remind ourselves that measles is a highly infectious airborne viral disease that spreads easily through the air through breathing, coughing, and sneezing.

We cannot afford to be complacent considering the fact that measles is highly contagious and you are at risk of getting it if you breathe the same air as someone with the disease and you are not immune.

You are not immune if you have not been vaccinated, or you have never had the disease.

So let’s remind ourselves about symptoms of measles which are: Fever and a rash with any of the following: runny nose, sneezing, cough, red/watery eyes, white spots inside the mouth.

The rash starts after the other symptoms and spreads all over the body.

There is no specific treatment for measles, as it is your body’s immune system that fights off the disease.

According to the ministry, most people recover from measles infection in 8-10 days with rest, and ensuring that they are eating and drinking to avoid dehydration.

Some people infected with measles develop severe complications such as pneumonia (infection of the lungs) or encephalitis (brain swelling).

Children under the age of five, babies younger than one-year-old, pregnant women, adults over the age of twenty, and those with compromised immune systems are most at risk of complications.

Measles is supposed to be rare in Fiji because we have an effective immunisation program.

However, we must remind ourselves that outbreaks around the world, including in neighbouring countries, as the ministry continues to highlight, still puts Fiji at risk of having cases of measles.

We must be vigilant.

We must be careful and be mindful of our travels around the country and into highlighted danger zones.

We have been warned.

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