The Ministry of Health is encouraging parents to ensure that their children???s immunisation status is up-to-date. This is of particular concern in light of the recent outbreak of measles in the United States.

Measles is a highly contagious, serious disease caused by a virus which is now uncommon in Barbados because of the effectiveness of the MMR vaccination programme.

The disease remains one of the leading causes of death among young children globally, despite the availability of the vaccine. The first dose is given at 12 months, while the second dose is given between the ages of three and five.

The Ministry assures the public that the measles vaccine (MMR) has been used for 50 years and is safe, effective and inexpensive.??Adults who require measles vaccination are asked to call their polyclinic or general practitioner for information.

The initial symptoms of measles develop around 10 days after infection. These can include runny nose, cough, red eyes and sensitivity to light, fever and greyish white spots in the mouth and throat. After a few days, a red-brown, spotty rash will appear. This usually starts behind the ears and then spreads around the head and neck before spreading to the rest of the body.

Measles is spread by coughing and sneezing, close personal contact or direct contact with infected nasal or throat secretions. The virus remains active and contagious in the air or on infected surfaces for up to two hours. It can be transmitted by an infected person from four days prior to the onset of the rash to four days after the rash erupts.

Most measles-related deaths are due to complications associated with the disease. Complications are more common in children under the age of five, or adults over the age of 20. The most serious include blindness, encephalitis (an infection that causes brain swelling), severe diarrhoea and related dehydration, ear infections, or severe respiratory infections such as pneumonia.

Unvaccinated young children are at highest risk of measles and its complications, including death. Unvaccinated pregnant women are also at risk.??Routine measles vaccination for children is the best way to prevent them from getting measles.

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