With the increasing trend of measles cases reported across the Pacific region, the Ministry of Health has established a Measles Task Force to prevent a measles outbreak in Vanuatu.
World Health Organisation (WHO) Technical Officer, Dr Guyant Philippe reported that there are no measles suspect cases as of November 4 2019.
WHO risk assessments in their news update state the recent outbreaks have been fuelled by:
1) Low immunization coverage due to gaps in routine immunization programs
2) Low immunization coverage among subpopulations
3) Movement of people domestically and internationally
4) Vaccine hesitancy
Since September 2019, the Ministry has intensified its efforts to respond to the threat of measles, with great support from WHO and UNICEF.
Measles has a long incubation period with the average time of early symptoms in about 10 — 12 days and from exposure to rash onset an average of 14 days (range 7- 21 days), which means that international travel can be completed before an infected traveler becomes symptomatic. Case patients may be infectious from approximately 3 days prior to the onset of the rash to 4 days after the rash erupts.
The initial symptoms after infection include – high fever 38°C (100.4°F or higher at the time of rash onset), cough, coryza (cold-like symptoms, running nose, sneezing), conjunctivitis (red, watery eyes) and koplik spots (small white spots inside the mouth, opposite the upper 1st and 2nd molars). Not all patients get koplik spots, however if they appear then it is a definitive sign of measles.
A rash will break out for several days (3-5 days) after the initial symptoms; starting at the hairline and behind the ears, spreading over the face and upper neck then down to the abdomen, arms, legs and feet. Typically, it is raised red, non-blistering and not itchy.
Some infants and young children may also experience diarrhea.
During a press conference earlier this week, the Acting Director of Public Health Donald Pelam informed the general public that the measles preparedness and response plan is already in place and will be activated if there is an outbreak of the virus in Vanuatu.
The Ministry of Health wishes to emphasize the importance of the community being alert for measles signs and symptoms. If you suspect that you or your child may have measles, it is critical that you notify your health centre and avoid crowds and public spaces to stop the spread of measles.