Sands ‘concerned’ about US measles outbreak, collapse of Venezuela’s health system

Health Minister Dr. Duane Sands.

Minister calls on parents to vaccinate children

 

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Health minister Dr. Duane Sands on Tuesday encouraged parents to vaccinate their children, after a state of emergency was declared in the United States following a measles outbreak that has affected more than two dozen people, the majority of them children.

Dr. Sands said because of that outbreak, coupled with the collapse of Venezuela’s public health care system, his ministry is extremely concerned.

“Measles is certainly now back with us,” Dr. Sands said told reporters before heading to yesterday’s Cabinet meeting.  “We now see serious threats to the region, so the Ministry of Health recognizes that we have to go back and look at strategies to increase our immunization coverage, not just for measles, but for a number of other vaccine-preventable illnesses, given the collapse of the public health system in a huge country in South America.”

Measles is a highly contagious viral illness.  According to the Centers for Disease Control, 90 per cent of non-immunized individuals near an infected person will contract it. Measles spreads through the air, and the virus can live for up to two hours in the airspace where an infected person coughed or sneezed. It can also be difficult to catch early signs of the illness and symptoms generally start to appear seven to 14 days after infection, meaning that people can spread the disease before they know they are sick.

Earlier this week in the United States, a measles outbreak in Washington State prompted health officials to declare a public emergency. As of yesterday, reports revealed there were 36 confirmed cases and 11 suspected cases.  Thirty-five of the confirmed measles patients and all of the suspected cases are located in Clark County and all but four of these patients had not been immunized with the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine, and officials were working to verify the immunization status of the remaining individuals.

Yesterday, Dr. Sands said it appeared as if “vaccine-preventable illnesses” were making a resurgence and it was important that persons, especially children, are vaccinated.

“So when you see persons who believe for one reason or the next that vaccination is neither fashionable or safe, based on a lot of disinformation on the internet, bear in mind that this could pose a clear and present danger to the health of our children,” Dr. Sands said.