The Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS) has confirmed that two children died in Honiara last week due to measles related complications.

“Over 550 cases of measles have been reported to the MHMS National Surveillance Unit since the outbreak began in July 2014, and it is likely there are thousands more cases that have not yet been reported,” said Dr Lester Ross, Permanent Secretary of MHMS.

“Measles is the most infectious disease we know of. It is spreading fast and people need to act now to protect their children and themselves against this potentially fatal disease. The best protection against measles is vaccination.”

In response to the growing outbreak, the MHMS has decided to conduct a mass vaccination campaign to include all people aged from 6 months to 30 years of age. The campaign is supported by GAVI Alliance.

“Measles vaccinations are free, safe, effective, and available at Honiara City Council health clinics now for everyone aged 6 months to 30 years. These are the ages most likely to be affected,” said Dr. Ross.

Children are particularly vulnerable to measles because they are more likely to suffer from complications that could lead to permanent disability or death. Measles can cause blindness, severe diarrhoea, ear infection and pneumonia, particularly in malnourished children (people who do not eat fruits and vegetables) and people with reduced immunity.

The epicentre of this outbreak is Honiara, however cases of measles have also been reported in Malaita, Guadalcanal, Isabel, Western, Temotu, and Renbel.

Measles is a highly contagious disease. It spreads by coughing, spitting, sneezing and over-crowding (having too many people in the same room with an infected person).

Initial symptoms, which usually appear 10–12 days after infection, include high fever, runny nose, and red eyes. Several days later, a rash develops, starting on the face and upper neck and gradually spreading downwards. There is no specific treatment for measles and most people recover within 2–3 weeks.

MHMS, WHO and UNICEF continue to work together to control this outbreak.

Key facts:

• If you have symptoms of measles (high fever, rash on face and body, runny nose, red eyes) visit your health clinic and keep away from others.
• If you or your child is aged 6 months to 30 years of age, go to a Honiara City Council health clinic for a free and safe measles vaccine. If your child received their first dose of the measles vaccine more than one month ago, take them to a clinic for their second dose.
• The measles vaccine is free, safe and effective. Protect your family now and vaccinate everyone aged 6 months to 30 years.

Press Release: MHMS