Media Release 10: Measles (29 Nov 2019)
Since the last update on November 27th 2019 there are now 14 confirmed cases of measles. The latest confirmed case is a 36 year old from Makosoi, Deuba in Serua/Namosi.
As highlighted in previous advisories, the Ministry of Health and Medical Services is strongly advising against non-essential travel to Serua/Namosi. This includes, but is not limited to, the areas of Wainadoi, Nabukavesi, Namosi, Navua, and Deuba.
Measles is very contagious. To help stop the spread of the disease, the Ministry of Health and Medical Services also advises Fijians in the strongest possible terms, to take the following precautions:
Avoid non-essential travel to Serua/Namosi. The Ministry of Health continues to hear about residents of Serua/Namosi planning for gatherings that will bring people from across the country and overseas. We advise in the strongest terms that until outbreak precautions are ceased in Serua/Namosi, all such gatherings should be deferred. This includes private celebrations such as weddings and family gatherings. If you need to travel to Serua/Namosi, please get vaccinated against measles at least two weeks before travel. Please avoid taking those that cannot get vaccinated (e.g. babies under the age of 6 months and pregnant women) to the outbreak area of Serua/Namosi.
Avoid holding or attending large gatherings of people, especially in Central Division, but also those that bring participants from across the country or overseas (such as youth camps, religious gatherings, graduation ceremonies, sporting events, etc). Measles can spread very easily among large groups of people if they are not immune, who can then take the disease back into their communities.
If you are holding an event with international visitors, or participants from an outbreak area, please strongly encourage them to get vaccinated against measles at least two (2) weeks before travel. This especially applies to visitors traveling from other countries with measles outbreaks i.e. New Zealand, Samoa and Tonga.
As mentioned in the past, the measles vaccine is currently in limited supply and therefore will be prioritized to those who are at the greatest risk of catching and spreading measles. This current restriction will change after new vaccine stock arrives later this week – when it will be made available to targeted groups published in the measles advisory.
Currently the free vaccine is only available to:
Children as per the routine national immunization schedule (at 12 months and 18 months of age). This includes children who have not received those 2 doses of the vaccine as scheduled.
The residents of Serua/Namosi
Contacts of a measles case will also continue to be vaccinated as determined by the respective outbreak response team.
The only exceptions to those in the above groups are pregnant women, those with compromised immune systems, and those with a known allergy to the vaccine. These people should not be vaccinated
Measles is a highly infectious airborne viral disease that spreads easily through the air through breathing, 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. You are not immune if you have not been vaccinated, or you have never had the disease.
The symptoms of measles are:
Fever and a rash with any of the following: runny nose, sneezing, cough, red/watery eyes, white spots inside the mouth. The rash starts after the other 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 hospitalization. Children under the age of five (5), babies younger than one (1) year old, pregnant women, adults over the age of twenty (20), and those with compromised immune systems are most at risk of complications.
A safe and effective vaccine exists for measles. The Ministry of Health and Medical Services provides measles vaccine free to children. Since 2003, all children in Fiji are offered two (2) doses of the combination measles-rubella vaccine – starting from twelve (12) months of age. Fiji’s immunization coverage for children is good, and the Ministry also conducted a supplemental campaign in 2017 for all one (1) to ten (10) year olds. Please ensure your children have received at least two (2) doses of the measles vaccine according to the Fiji immunization schedule. This information should be in your child’s ‘Fiji Child Health Record’ (which is a booklet/card every child born in Fiji is provided) for children under the age of 5, and the school health card for school aged children.
Measles in Fiji
Because we have an effective immunization program, measles is rare in Fiji. However, outbreaks around the world, including in neighbouring countries, still puts Fiji at risk of having cases of measles.