Health Ministry Clears Up Confusion and Insists No Measles in Jamaica

Minister of Health Dr Christopher Tufton

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Wednesday April 24, 2019 – The Ministry of Health today insisted that there are no cases of measles in the country.

Confusion over the matter came in the House of Representatives yesterday, when Opposition Spokesman on Health Dr Dayton Campbell questioned
Minister of Health Dr Christopher Tufton about whether there had been any local or imported cases reported. Dr Tufton said he was not aware of any, and Dr Campbell responded that there had been one imported case reported to the Ministry of Health.

Later on, the Health Minister rose to inform the House that he had received information about a case at a private hospital in Montego Bay where Dr Campbell worked.

“It was not quite an imported case of measles because the child had measles two weeks prior to coming to Jamaica and had complications when they actually came into the country,” he said, adding that the individual was not contagious and therefore no threat to the population.

In a statement issued today, the Ministry of Health supported Dr Tufton’s comments in the House of Representatives.

“At the time of stay in Jamaica, the person was several days out of the infectious period for measles. After investigations, the Public Health Department concluded that neither the patient nor relatives were having measles. Precautions were taken, however, to ensure that all whom came in contact with the patient were immunized against measles even while the investigation was being conducted,” it said.

The Ministry added that Jamaica has a robust surveillance system in place for fever and rash and all cases are reported within 24 hours, while suspected measles are reported immediately.

“The Ministry of Health does receive a few notifications each year; these cases are investigated and patients are isolated, tested and treated, if they meet the case definition. Additionally, contacts are vaccinated if they have not previously received immunization,” it said.

Jamaica has had no local spread of measles since 1991. The last imported case of measles was in 2011.

Measles is a highly contagious illness caused by a virus that replicates in the nose and throat of an infected child or adult. Complications include ear infection and diarrhea, while severe complications include pneumonia, swelling of the brain and death.

The Ministry said that in order to stop the disease from spreading, 95 per cent of children in Jamaica need to be fully vaccinated with the two doses – MMR1 at 12 months and MMR2 at 18 months.

But Minister Tufton, during his presentation in Parliament yesterday, reported that Jamaica has seen a decrease in uptake of the vaccines over the last few years.

“And we are appealing to all parents to visit the nearest health centre to ensure that their children are fully vaccinated as measles kills more children than any other vaccine-preventable disease,” he said.

Dr Tufton said that his ministry was monitoring the island for imported cases of measles given the recent increase in cases in the United States and across the region. As March 30, there were 3,674 suspected cases and 596 confirmed cases in the Region of the Americas, with over 300 of the confirmed cases from the United States. In Europe, in January 2019, there were 881 cases of measles reported from 19 countries.

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