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Ministry of Health takes precautions against measles

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Late last month the Ministry of Health issued an advisory informing the public that a case of measles was confirmed in Guatemala. This created concern as people feared that it would spread to Belize.  Dr. Natalia Beer, from the Maternal and Child Health Unit and Dr. Cecilio Eck, Chief of Pediatrics at the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital addressed those fears.

Dr. Natalia Beer – Ministry of Health

“Calling the population to protect ourselves and the protection number one is to vaccinate babies, in this case, it’s the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine which is given routinely at 12 months and 18 months of age.”

Dr. Cecilio Eck, Chief of Pediatrics, KHMH

“At risk would be any baby less than 5 those are the ones who get the most complications from it. The people who are most at risk of getting or transmitting the disease and hence the invitation of the media is to make sure that all the population are vaccinated especially the upfront personnel like the immigration officers, police officers, health care workers and so, of course, the Ministry if revamping the program to vaccinate these at-risk populations.”

Johnelle McKenzie – Reporter

“What are the signs and symptoms people should look for?”

Dr. Cecilio Eck, Chief of Pediatrics, KHMH

“The most common ones and these are reportable illnesses, would be if there is a fever and a rash, any doctor or nurse recognize someone with a fever or rash please send them to the doctor, the doctor will recognize it and report it to the relevant public health authorities; it does not necessarily mean that they have to rush in to the hospital but these guys will be reported to public health and the public health will do the requisite investigation at home.”

Johnelle McKenzie – Reporter

“Has there been on record anyone who has died in recent times as a result of this?”

Dr. Cecilio Eck, Chief of Pediatrics, KHMH

“I think our last reported case was in 1991 and that was not a death case. So even though it is very contagious the mortality rate is pretty low- the morbidity associated with it through problems with learning down the road is at about 30% hence the need for awareness.”

Beer said that presently there is not any case of measles in Belize; however, the Ministry is waiting for the results of twelve samples that were sent to Mexico for testing.  Measles is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus and the best way to prevent getting the disease is to get vaccinated. Other preventative methods include regularly washing hands, sneezing into a tissue or your sleeve, avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth, and avoid close contact with persons who have the illness.  Beer said that the Ministry will be embarking on an awareness campaign that includes visiting schools to vaccinate children who were not vaccinated as babies as well as ensuring that frontline workers are vaccinated.  The vaccination, MMR 1, is given to children at twelve months and a second vaccination, MMR 2 is given at eighteen months of age. Children may display a mild reaction to the vaccination such as a fever or rash which is normal.

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