Last Updated on Friday, 23 March 2018, 21:35 by Denis Chabrol
The Guyana government on Friday said there was no outbreak of measles in Region One (Barima-Waini), although there is high incidence of the transmittable disease in neighbouring Venezuela.
Director of Maternal and Child Health, Dr. Ertensia Hamilton was quoted by government’s Department of Public Information as saying “we have no Measles in Region One. Claims are erroneous.”
Hamilton clarified that reports forwarded to senior regional officials may have been misinterpreted, resulting in an incorrect impression that there may be an outbreak in the region.
She explained that there is a measles outbreak in the neighbouring country of Venezuela and that health officials in Region One have been monitoring the situation and preparing for any eventuality.
Other health officials including Director of Regional Health Services, Dr. Kay Shako and Regional Health Officer, Dr. Cerdel Mc Watt confirmed that no such report of an outbreak has reached them.
Minister within the Ministry of Public Health, Dr. Karen Cummings, in an invited comment, stated that the ministry has indeed not been in receipt of any report detailing an outbreak and further investigations have also stated same.
“In stopping this (Measles), efforts must be preventative so we ensure everyone is vaccinated, do mop-up exercises and be vigilant of our borders. We are working with our partners at PAHO who are on top of things…” Minister Cummings was quoted as saying by the DPI.
She also noted that there may be an increase in the number of Brazilians and Venezuelans seeking health care in the bordering communities’ health facilities. She, however, assured that these persons are treated, since healthcare services in Guyana are free.
The Region One vaccination records will indicate persons requiring the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella – MMR vaccine. This vaccine is usually issued to babies but can also be given to adults to prevent the contraction of Measles, Mumps, and Rubella.
Measles is a highly contagious disease caused by a virus. The first sign of the ailment is usually a high fever, which begins about 10 to 12 days after exposure to the virus and lasts 4 to 7 days. A runny nose, a cough, red and watery eyes, and small white spots inside the cheeks can develop in the initial stage. After several days, a rash erupts, usually on the face and upper neck. Over about 3 days, the rash spreads, eventually reaching the hands and feet. The rash lasts for 5 to 6 days and then fades.
Measles can eventually cause severe health problems, including pneumonia, brain swelling and, in some cases, death.
In 2016, the Pan American World Health Organisation declared the Region of the Americas as the first in the world to have eliminated the disease. This achievement culminates a 22-year effort involving mass vaccination against Measles, Mumps, and Rubella throughout the Americas. Measles was the fifth vaccine-preventable disease to be eliminated from the Americas, after the regional eradication of smallpox in 1971, poliomyelitis in 1994, and rubella and congenital rubella syndrome in 2015. Cases have since reappeared since the collapse of basic health services in Venezuela, due to that country’s economic failings.