Marketing and Communications Manager
BVI Health Services Authority
Residents of the Virgin Islands are urged to do their part to prevent a measles outbreak following reports of a confirmed case of the virus on board a ship docked in St. Lucia.
Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) Manager, Nurse Marina Bedeau is urging persons who are not immunized or those who do not know their immunization status to visit their nearest Health Centre to get vaccinated. Parents are also asked to ensure that their children are up to date with their vaccination schedules.
Nurse Bedeau said, “We have over 90 to 95 percent immunization coverage for the Territory’s children and back in 2000 we conducted a campaign that targeted 22-44 year olds to be immunized against the measles and rubella disease. Our mission now is to obtain 98 to 100 percent coverage of children one to ten years old.”
The EPI Manager said measles is a highly contagious virus that lives in the nose and throat mucus of an infected person and can spread to others through coughing and sneezing. The virus can live for up to two hours in an airspace where the infected person coughed or sneezed.
Nurse Bedeau said persons who breathe the contaminated air or touch the infected surface can become infected if they touch their eyes, noses, or mouths. Measles, she said is very contagious and if one person has the virus, up to 90% of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected.
Nurse Bedeau further explained that the symptoms of measles includes high fever, cough, runny nose and red watery eyes/conjunctivitis and appear about seven to 14 days after a person is exposed.
The EPI Manage said two to four days after symptoms begin a rash appears on the face at the hairline and spreads downward to the neck, trunk, arms, legs, and feet. Small raised bumps may also appear on top of the flat red spots.
She added, “The spots may become joined together as they spread from the head to the rest of the body. When the rash appears, a person’s fever may spike to more than 104° Fahrenheit. Infected people can spread measles to others from four days before and up to four days after the rash appears.”
The virus can only be prevented by persons being administered two doses of measles containing vaccine -MMR
With over 700 confirmed cases of measles in the region of the Americas and Europe, parents and guardians are urged to speak to their family healthcare provider if they are unsure of their child or children’s status.
Healthcare providers are also asked to remain vigilant on the signs and symptoms of the disease. Persons who think they may be at risk should visit their health centre and speak with their nurse or doctor for the uptake of the vaccine.
BVI Health Services Authority is committed to delivering excellent, compassionate, client-centered healthcare across the Territory.