Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 23 May 2019

UAE travellers should consider vaccination against global measles threat, doctors say

Many parts of the world are experiencing a worrying rise in the number of cases of the highly infectious disease

A Filipino nurse giving a boy his measles vaccine in a slum area in Tondo, Manila.
A Filipino nurse giving a boy his measles vaccine in a slum area in Tondo, Manila.

UAE holidaymakers should consider getting vaccinated against measles as cases of the highly infectious disease soar across the globe, doctors have said.

The number of measles cases tripled worldwide in the first three months of 2019, compared to the same period last year, according to data released by the World Health Organisation.

The largest increase was in Africa with a 700 per cent rise in cases. The worst affected countries included Ukraine, Madagascar and India, where there were tens of thousands of cases per million people.

But even parts of the US, where measles was declared eliminated in 2000, have seen a marked rise in cases. Between January 1 to May 3, 764 cases were confirmed in 23 states, the greatest number since 1994.

In the UAE, there have been only nine confirmed cases of measles reported so far this year, compared to more than 60 in the same period in 2018, according to data from WHO.

But doctors recently warned a growing “anti-vaccination” movement is gaining traction in the country, as new research suggested one parent in 10 is against inoculating their children.

The virus is one of the world’s most contagious infectious diseases. Tiny droplets from when an infected person coughs, breathes or sneezes, can hang suspended in the air for two hours after they have left the area. The vast majority — 90 per cent — of those who have not developed immunity to the virus will become infected once exposed.

Anyone who is in doubt about whether they have received the measles vaccine has two options, according to The Infinity Family Medicine Clinic in Dubai, which sent out an online notice reminding people of the need to safeguard their health before going on holiday.

First, they have the option to perform a blood test to check for measles immunity, the safety message stated.

“If negative, receive the MMR vaccination — preferably two doses with at least 28 days between them,” the clinic said.

Alternatively, they could forgo the test and receive the two MMR doses.

“Even if you are immune there is no harm in receiving additional vaccination,” said the clinic.

Babies are not normally eligible for the MMR vaccine in the UAE before they are 12 months old. But those aged between six months and 11 months who will be travelling to a high-risk areas should receive the MMR shot, the clinic said.

“It is important to note that this vaccination does not count as the one year vaccination, the MMR should be given again at one year and 18 months as per schedule,” it adds.

The vaccine is not recommended for pregnant women as it is a weakened “live virus” and could theoretically go on to cause illness.

Updated: May 13, 2019 12:47 PM

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