The Ministry of Health wishes to alert the public to the recent increase in cases of measles within the region. All of the cases reported within the region were imported from Europe. For 2017, the World Health Organization has reported 14,451 confirmed cases of measles in 30 European countries and 30 deaths. In 2017, the region of the Americas reported 952 confirmed cases and 2 deaths from measles in Venezuela. Since 2018, there have been 13 imported and 7 suspected cases of measles in other countries within the region.
Measles is a highly infectious disease accompanied by a rash with fever and at least one of these three symptoms: coryza (runny nose), cough and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The rash starts behind the ears and then spreads to the head and neck, followed by the rest of the body. Other symptoms include small greyish white spots with a bluish-white center inside the mouth, cheek and throat and body aches. It is spread through droplet infection; coughs and sneezes.
The period when a person is infectious and can spread the virus is within 7 to 10 days of exposure, but can be up to 14 days. The number one way of preventing measles is through vaccination with the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine. This vaccine is offered free of cost at all primary health care facilities within the Turks and Caicos Islands.
The Turks and Caicos Islands has maintained high immunization coverage, over 95%, in the MMR vaccine. This means we have very good “herd” immunity in the country. The last reported case of measles in the TCI was in 1991. Although, we have good “herd” immunity, persons who are not protected with the vaccine are at an increased risk of contracting the virus. The TCI is home to over one million visitors annually; this places the country at risk for importation and re-introduction of measles.
To be considered fully protected against measles, individuals must have two doses of the MMR vaccine. The TCI offers this at ages 1 and 2 years. Parents who are uncertain about their child’s immunization status should bring their take-home vaccine cards into any primary care clinic to have it checked. Persons who are uncertain of their immunization status may also visit the clinic to determine their status and be vaccinated if necessary. If you are concerned that you might have been exposed, please contact your health care provider.
For more information please contact a Public Health Nurse at your local Primary Health Care clinic on 338- 5474, 338-5470 or 946-5613 or, you may contact your local health care provider.
Help us keep TCI measles free!