Fiji monitors measles outbreak in Pacific region
24 October, 2019, 3:15 pm
THE ongoing measles outbreak in New Zealand followed by recent outbreaks declared for Samoa and Tonga is being closely monitored by the Fijian authorities.
The Fiji Ministry of Health and Medical Services in a statement issued this afternoon stated that because there was an effective immunisation program, measles was rare in the country.
“However, outbreaks around the world, including in neighboring countries, puts us at risk of having travel-related cases of measles,” the ministry stated.
It has urged all Fijians to help the ministry prevent measles from coming to Fiji.
“Please ensure your children receive their vaccinations according to Fiji’s immunisation schedule. And ensure you are vaccinated before traveling overseas, especially to New Zealand, Samoa, or Tonga.”
The ministry has taken the following actions to prevent and respond to potential cases in Fiji in response to the outbreaks in the region:
- Made the measles vaccine available for free to Fijians travelling overseas:- the public was advised in August that anyone travelling abroad should get vaccinated if they have not been, or are unsure of their vaccination status. Free vaccine is available at your nearest health centre for those aged 12 months and above who are travelling overseas. Babies aged between 6 months and 12 months can also get vaccinated if they are travelling to an area with an ongoing outbreak of measles – but they will still need to receive their next scheduled measles vaccines as per the Fiji immunisation schedule. You should get vaccinated at least two weeks in advance of travel. Pregnant women should not be vaccinated.
- The ministry will soon offer free measles vaccine to people that are at higher risk of exposure to those infected with measles. This includes airport and airline workers, hotel workers, and healthcare workers. Extra effort is also being put into vaccinating children who have missed out on their scheduled measles vaccine.
- Awareness is being raised among health staff to be alert for measles cases. And training has already commenced on response.
- The National Public Health Laboratory (NPHL) at the Ministry’s Fiji Centre for Communicable Disease Control is WHO accredited for measles testing and work will continue on strengthening the existing system of surveillance for cases.
Measles is a highly infectious airborne viral disease that is spread by coughing and sneezing. You are at risk of getting measles if you breathe the same air as someone with the disease and you are not immune i.e. if you have not been vaccinated, or you have never had the disease.
Symptoms of measles include fever, runny nose, cough, sore and red eyes. A rash starts a few days after these 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. Most people recover from a 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). These people require hospitalisation. Children under the age of 5, babies younger than 1-year-old, pregnant women, adults over the age of 20, and those with compromised immune systems are most at risk of complications.
An effective vaccine exists for measles. Since 2003, all children in Fiji are offered 2 doses of the combination measles-rubella vaccine- starting from 12 months of age. Fiji’s immunisation coverage for children is good, and the ministry also conducted a supplemental campaign in 2017 for all 1 to 10-year-olds.
Measles in Fiji
Because we have an effective immunisation program, measles is rare in Fiji. However, outbreaks around the world, including in neighboring countries, put Fiji at risk of having travel-related cases of measles.