Measles typically causes a skin rash. Two cases were found in the Turks and Caicos Islands in early May. (Photo: GIS)

After two cases of measles were discovered in the Turks and Caicos Islands in early May, Virgin Islands health officials are taking steps to prevent an outbreak here.

Since the discovery, stakeholder meetings have been organised in the VI, and they were set to continue into this week.

“On May 21, we held initial meetings with public-sector paediatricians, public health nurses, and infection control practitioners to plan a response strategy,” acting Chief Medical Officer Dr. Ronald Georges said June 5 in a press release. “An additional meeting was held on May 31 with the Education and Social Development departments to address concerns around measles and communicable diseases in schools and daycares.”

A WebEx meeting was also scheduled for Tuesday of this week, where officials were to focus on clinical presentations, information about measles treatment and complications, public health requirements, immunisation, infection control, surveillance, and reporting protocols that have been enacted in the territory, the release stated.

“The introduction of measles in the region is concerning, and the outbreak in the Turks and Caicos Islands is a wakeup call to the entire region,” Dr. Georges stated.

Cricket World Cup

He added that the risk will be elevated by the upcoming Cricket World Cup, which will bring thousands of visitors to the region, including some from areas with poor immunisation coverage.

Measles is extremely infectious, and a single case can potentially give rise to 15 to 20 secondary cases, according to the Ministry of Health and Social Development.

“The disease usually presents as an influenza-like illness with two to four days of viral symptoms before appearance of rash,” the ministry stated in a press release. “The rash of measles usually starts around the face and behind the ears, then further expands across the body until it becomes a generalised red rash lasting three to seven days and fades gradually.”

A single dose of Measles, Mumps and Rubella vaccine is 95 percent effective in preventing clinical measles and 92 percent effective in preventing secondary cases among household contacts, according to the ministry. Childhood vaccines are available from all paediatricians in the territory and through the BVI Health Services Authority’s primary health care clinics.