Last update: 04-Dec-2013 12:33 pm
Wednesday, December 04, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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WHO issues Europe measles warning
European countries need to act now to tackle measles outbreaks, the World Health Organisation (WHO) warns. The WHO report says there were more than 26,000 measles cases in 36 European countries from January to October 2011. Western European countries reported 83 per cent of those cases, with 14,000 in France alone. In England and Wales, there were just under 1,000 confirmed measles cases in that period—compared with just 374 in the whole of 2010.
Altogether, measles outbreaks in Europe have caused nine deaths, including six in France, and 7,288 hospitalisations. France has now launched a nationwide campaign to raise awareness about the need for MMR vaccination. Jean-Yves Grall, the director-general for Health in France, said: “France can simply not afford to have deaths, painful and costly hospitalisations, disruptions to work and school from a completely vaccine-preventable disease.”
Ninety per cent of European cases were amongst adolescents and adults who had not been vaccinated or people where it was not known if they had been vaccinated or not. And measles from Europe has been linked to outbreaks in several other countries including Brazil, Canada and Australia.
Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO regional director for Europe, said: “The increase in measles in European countries reveals a serious challenge to achieving the regional measles elimination goal by 2015. “Every country in the European region must take the opportunity now to raise coverage amongst susceptible populations, improve surveillance and severely reduce measles virus circulation before the approaching measles high season.”
A spokeswoman for the Health Protection Agency, which covers England and Wales, said: “Anyone who missed out on MMR as a child will continue to be at risk of measles, which explains why we are continuing to see cases in a broad age range.” “We are again reminding parents and young adults of the importance of immunisation. We cannot stress enough that measles is serious and in some cases it can be fatal.
“Measles is a highly infectious and potentially dangerous illness which spreads very easily. Whether you stay here in the UK or travel abroad it is crucial that individuals who may be at risk are fully immunised.” (BBC)
Measles, also called rubeola, is a highly contagious respiratory infection that's caused by a virus. It causes a total-body skin rash and flu-like symptoms, including a fever, cough, and runny nose. Since measles is caused by a virus, there is no specific medical treatment and the virus has to run its course. But a child who is sick should be sure to receive plenty of fluids and rest, and be kept from spreading the infection to others.
Signs and symptoms
While measles is probably best known for its full-body rash, the first symptoms of the infection are usually a hacking cough, runny nose, high fever, and red eyes. A characteristic marker of measles are Koplik’s spots, small red spots with blue-white centers that appear inside the mouth. The measles rash typically has a red or reddish brown blotchy appearance, and first usually shows up on the forehead, then spreads downward over the face, neck, and body, then down to the arms and feet.
Measles is highly contagious—90 per cent of people who haven’t been vaccinated for measles will get it if they live in the same household as an infected person. Measles is spread when someone comes in direct contact with infected droplets or when someone with measles sneezes or coughs and spreads virus droplets through the air.
A person with measles is contagious from one to two days before symptoms start until about four days after the rash appears.
Infants are generally protected from measles for six months after birth due to immunity passed on from their mothers. Older kids are usually immunised against measles according to health regulations. For most kids, the measles vaccine is part of the measles-mumps-rubella immunisation (MMR) or measles-mumps-rubella-varicella immunisation (MMRV) given at 12 to 15 months of age and again at four to six years of age. Measles vaccine is not usually given to infants younger than 12 months old.
But if there’s a measles outbreak, the vaccine may be given when a child is six-11-months-old, followed by the usual MMR immunisation at 12 to 15 months and four to six years. As with all immunisation schedules, there are important exceptions and special circumstances. Your doctor will have the most current information regarding recommendations about the measles immunisation.
The measles vaccine should not be given to these at-risk groups:
• pregnant women
• kids with untreated tuberculosis, leukemia, or other cancers
• people whose immune systems are suppressed for any reason
• kids who have a history of severe allergic reaction to gelatin or to the antibiotic neomycin, as they are at risk for serious reactions
During a measles outbreak, an injection of measles antibodies called immune globulin can help protect people who have not been immunised (especially those at risk of serious infection, such as pregnant women, infants, or kids with weakened immune systems) if it’s given within six days of exposure. These antibodies can either prevent measles or make symptoms less severe.
For women who are not pregnant and people not in one of the other at-risk groups mentioned above, the measles vaccine may offer some protection if given within 72 hours of measles exposure. (kidshealth.org)
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