PAHO Issues Alert on Measles Outbreaks and Implications for the Americas. Travelers advice issued  

Collective Prevention Services (CPS), a department of the Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labour, says the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has issued an epidemiological alert regarding a measles outbreak and implications for the Americas, and has called for strengthened surveillance activities by Member States and to take appropriate measures to protect residents against measles and rubella.

PAHO advises that all travelers over the age of six months (with the exceptions noted below) going to areas with documented measles virus circulation, to be fully vaccinated against measles and rubella, preferably with the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine.  Ideally, the vaccine should be administered at least two weeks before departure.

Infants who receive the MMR vaccine before their first birthday must be revaccinated according to their country’s vaccination schedule.

Travelers who are not up to date on their vaccinations are at higher risk of contracting either disease when in close contact with travelers from countries where the viruses still circulate.

Exceptions to this recommendation include persons with medical contraindications to the measles and rubella vaccine.  Additionally, infants under the age of six months should not be vaccinated.

Persons considered immune to measles and rubella, which are those who can present: written documentation of having received measles and rubella vaccination; or laboratory confirmation of rubella and measles immunity (a positive serological test for the measles and rubella-specific IgG antibodies).

The total count across the Americas of imported cases from 2003 to 2014 reached 5,077 cases, most of which have occurred in 2011 and 2014.

In 2015, a total of 147 cases have been reported as of epidemiological week 5 of 2015, ending on February 7, most of which were related to a large multi-state outbreak in the United States.

In Brazil between 2013 and 2015, a total of 971 confirmed measles cases were reported in the Federal District and nine states.  Canada is currently investigating two separate measles outbreaks.

A total of 121 measles cases have been reported in the United States of America from 1 January to 6 February 2015 in 17 states and Washington, DC.

Family physicians were alerted last month by CPS with respect to being observant regarding measles.

The Caribbean sub-region has been successful in maintaining a measles-free status since 1991.  In light of the strong travel ties between the Caribbean and the USA, and given that we are in the midst of the tourism high-season, the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) has advised enhanced vigilance for fever-rash syndromes among members of the local and visitor populations.

CPS advises guardians and parents to check their children’s vaccination status to see whether they are up to date.  If persons decide to travel, they should also check their vaccination status and to make use of every opportunity to get vaccinated according to the schedule.  If you need additional information call CPS at 542-3003 or 2078.

The majority of people who get measles are unvaccinated.
Other individuals who should get their vaccination status checked are, health care workers, pregnant women, pre-and exam class students, as well as groups at risks such as waste/garbage handlers, the Police, hotel and restaurant workers, and others to verify and update their vaccination status, particularly on Hepatitis B and Tetanus.

Immunization averts an estimated two-three million deaths every year, protecting children from diphtheria, measles, pertussis (better known as whooping cough), pneumonia, polio, rotavirus diarrhea, rubella, tetanus and others.