By Lori Lyn Lirio
HEALTH officials from the Commonwealth of Northern Marianas Islands issued a health travel advisory cautioning travelers to and from the Philippines due to a measles outbreak in that Southeast Asian country.
Following this development, Public Health’s Immunization Program manager Jeremy Sasamoto urged parents to bring their children to any of the Commonwealth Healthcare Centers’ public health clinics or to a private provider and have them vaccinated for measles, mumps and rubella (MMR).
He said CNMI children aged one to four, with at least one dose of MMR immunization, only have coverage of 75 percent, while those aged five to 18 have 94 percent coverage with two doses of MMR.
The CNMI Public Health/Hospital Emergency Preparedness Program or PHEPP/HPP and Epidemiology Laboratory Capacity Programs earlier issued a health travel advisory against the Philippines due to the highly contagious nature of measles.
“It only takes one person to start an outbreak. Let us ensure that our children are protected against the measles by ensuring they are up to date with the MMR vaccine. It is a preventable disease and we have the vaccine to do it,” Sasamoto said.
“Measles is highly contagious and should not be taken lightly as it kills too many children around the world every year,” he added.
Sasamoto commented that the Dengvaxia situation in the Philippines could have contributed to their decreased vaccination rates.
Dengvaxia had been the center of controversial in the Philippines after the Department of Health recorded 62 deaths of children who received the controversial vaccine under the government’s immunization program.
“CNMI travelers to the Philippines should plan ahead and get vaccinated,” Sasamoto said, adding that it would take time for the vaccine to build anti-bodies.
“One cannot expect to get vaccinated today and be protected tomorrow. Travelers should refer to the CHCC travel advisory issued by our partners at the PHEPP program for more information.”
As of present, the PHEPP/HPP has no report of measles outbreak in the CNMI.
The CHCC said people traveling to and from the Philippines should make sure they are vaccinated against measles with the MMR; children should receive two doses of MMR vaccine, with the first dose given at 1 year of age or older and the second dose given between the ages 4-6 years of age; and avoid contact with people who are sick.
“If you are a returning traveler from the Philippines and develop both a fever and rash, please see a medical provider immediately,” CHCC stated.
For more information about vaccinations, please call Division of Public Health Services Immunization Program at (670) 236-8745 or 236- 8709/83/81. To report a notifiable disease, please call PHEPP at (670) 236-8211.