Since the last update on November 15th 2019 there are now 7 confirmed cases of measles from Serua/Namosi Subdivision.
The latest confirmed cases are a 7 month old from Wainadoi, a 3 month old from Wainadoi, and a 19 year old from Navunikabi in Namosi. There are 2 more suspected cases in Navunikabi Namosi. The 7 month old and 3 month old babies are currently admitted under isolation at Navua hospital. The Serua/Namosi Outbreak Response Team has implemented response measures – including isolation of the cases, quarantine and vaccination of contacts and at risk communities.
On the evening of Sunday November 17th the Ministry of Health and Medical Services was notified of a suspected case of measles within the Tongan team that had just arrived to play in the Oceania Women’s Championship. In response, the suspected case has been isolated and the Tongan team placed under quarantine – their scheduled games have been cancelled pending testing results.
The Ministry of Health and Medical Services wishes to re-emphasize that, to control this outbreak, it is important that we protect those at the highest risk of catching and spreading the disease first. Current vaccination stocks are not unlimited and should be used for our most vulnerable groups who are most likely to catch and spread the disease. This will help protect everyone else, especially those that cannot get the vaccine – like babies under the age of 6 months. Replacement vaccine stocks are on their way to cover more people. In the meantime the public is asked for patience and to allow high-risk groups to be vaccinated first.
The free measles vaccine is currently limited to 4 groups who are at most at risk of contracting measles, and these are:
1. Any child in Fiji who has not received 2 doses of measles vaccine. If you’re unsure visit your nearest health centre with your child’s health record for it to be checked by a health care worker. They will be immunised on the spot if needed.
2. Anyone who resides in Serua/Namosi and is over 6 months of age is urgently advised to receive a dose of the measles vaccine regardless of prior vaccination status if they have not done so already.
3. Anyone who intends on travelling into Serua/Namosi is urged to get vaccinated at least 2 weeks before travel. The vaccine is available from any health centre in Fiji.
4. Anyone who intends to travel overseas and is over 6 months of age is advised to get a measles vaccine prior to travel from their nearest health centre.
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.