On April 1st, 2017, the surveillance team at the ministry received an unofficial report that a crew member from a West Jet flight that flew into the TCI, was diagnosed with measles. On Sunday, the Ministry contacted the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) requesting confirmation of the information. On Monday, PAHO through contact with the Canadian Public Health Agency confirmed the suspicion of the positive case. The crew member worked seven (7) flights, one of which flew into the TCI on March 24th, 2017. It was confirmed that the crew member did not deplane, but, because of the contact with passengers, who were visitors in the island, it is necessary for the surveillance system to be vigilant and extra sensitive to detect any secondary cases early. The World Health Organization has also confirmed over 500 cases of measles in Europe since January 2017.
Measles is a highly infectious disease accompanied by 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 the vaccination with the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine. This vaccine is offered free of cost at all primary health care facilities.
The Turks and Caicos Islands has maintained high coverage, over 95%, in the MMR vaccine. We have very good immunity in the country. The last reported case of measles in the TCI was in 1991. Although, we have good 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 cases.
To be considered fully protected against measles, the individual 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!