Saint Lucia monitors measles cases in Europe, America
Friday, January 18, 2019
by Fernelle Neptune, Ministry of Health

The Department of Health and Wellness is closely monitoring increased cases of measles affecting countries in Europe, the Americas and wider Caribbean region.

In a statement, Acting National Epidemiologist Dr. Michelle Francois said that Saint Lucia has been free of local transmission of measles since 1990. However, the Department of Health is asking that Saint Lucians remain vigilant given the travel ties with affected countries during the tourism season.

Dr. Francois said it is necessary that Saint Lucians are educated about the symptoms of measles as it can pose a threat to public health.

“The virus is vaccine-preventable,” she said. “This means that individuals who are vaccinated against measles will not get it if they are in contact with an infected individual. The virus is spread through droplets of air when the infected individual coughs and talks, so persons need to be on the lookout for certain signs and symptoms. Persons with the infection usually present a fever, which is usually accompanied by a cough. There are characteristics of white spots in the mouth, redness of the eyes or conjunctivitis, as well as a rash which would appear later on in the illness; it starts on the face and moves to the rest of the body.”

The Acting National Epidemiologist also emphasized the need for the Department of Health and Wellness to enhance surveillance efforts as to ensure control of measles transmission in Saint Lucia.

“Because we have not seen a case of measles since 1990, the Ministry of Health is being proactive and commencing sensitization and refresher courses for frontline workers such as physicians, nurses, and persons at the ports, with the aim of helping in the identification and management of measles, if a case does present,” she said. “We will also be working with our non-health partners such as tourism, early childhood development centers, as well as allied health because we are seeking to combine our efforts, in order to keep the population safe.”

The Department of Health and Wellness is calling on Saint Lucians to review their immunization status and to get vaccinated.