As highlighted by the Fiji Ministry of Health and Medical Services in early August, there are measles outbreaks in New Zealand, including Auckland and Wellington. All international travellers are urged to ensure they are up to date with their measles vaccinations.
If you are planning international travel, especially to New Zealand, and have not been vaccinated, or are unsure of your vaccination status, measles vaccine is available free of charge at your nearest Ministry of Health and Medical Services health centre. Preferably you should get vaccinated at least 2 weeks before travel.
Measles is a highly infectious airborne viral disease that is spread by coughing and sneezing. You are at risk of getting measles if you are not immune i.e. if you have not been vaccinated, or you have never had the disease.
Symptoms of measles include: Fever, runny nose, cough, sore and red eyes. A rash starts a few days after these 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 5, babies younger than 1 year old, pregnant women, adults over the age of 20, and those with compromised immune systems are most at risk of complications.
An effective vaccine exists for measles. Since 2003, all children in Fiji are offered 2 doses of the combination measles-rubella vaccine: first when they are 1 year old and the 2nd at school entry.
Measles in Fiji
Since we have an effective immunization program, measles is rare in Fiji. The last outbreak in Fiji was in 2006, and there have been 0 cases reported for years since. However, outbreaks around the world, including in neighboring countries, puts Fiji at risk of having travel related cases.