Since the beginning of 2019, only nine cases have been reported in UAE.
Children in the UAE are at less risk of the measles outbreak currently sweeping across the world, thanks to the stringent national vaccination programme.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), measles cases increased 300 per cent worldwide in the first three months of 2019 compared to the first three months in 2018.
However, the number of cases in the UAE has been on the decline since data was first reported in 2011. Since the beginning of 2019, only nine cases have been reported in UAE.
The highest number of cases reported in the country was in 2015, which was 826, when the Ministry of Health and Prevention ran a campaign to raise awareness on the disease and also introduced two doses of the combined Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine. The first dose is administered at the age of 12 months and the second between five and six years of age. Last year, the number of measles cases reported was 176.
Doctors said that since the authorities were strict with the vaccination schedules and the disease was notifiable, the numbers were on a steady decline. “The best prevention is through the vaccine,” said Dr Deepak Gandhi, paedritician at Medeor Hospital.
“As compared to India and other countries, there are hardly any cases here,” he noted. The doctor also said that it was important that parents administer both the doses to children. “The dose can be given until the age of 15 or even 20 is fine,” he said, adding that both doses reduce the impact of the disease.
The WHO statement said that the recent increase “follows consecutive increases over the past two years”. It added: “While this data is provisional and not yet complete, it indicates a clear trend. Many countries are in the midst of sizeable measles outbreaks, with all regions of the world experiencing sustained rises in cases.”
Measles is preventable by vaccine – but vaccination rates are declining. The WHO named “vaccine hesitancy” as a top global health threat. After publication of data, which was later debunked, many parents link vaccination to autism.
Mariam Salam, a mother of two said that despite the fact that she was in double minds about vaccination, she chose to have her children vaccinated. “I have chosen to have my children vaccinated because I think this might keep them protected from disease,” she said.
Globally, the current outbreaks are in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Madagascar, Myanmar, Philippines, Sudan, Thailand and Ukraine, causing many deaths – mostly among young children.
Over recent months, spikes in case numbers have also occurred in countries with high overall vaccination coverage, including the United States of America as well as Israel, Thailand, and Tunisia, as the disease has spread fast among clusters of unvaccinated people.
Measles is one of the world’s most contagious diseases, with the potential to be extremely severe. In 2017, the most recent year for which estimates are available, it caused close to 110,000 deaths.
The MoHAP did not respond to requests to comment on the issue.
Know about one of the world’s most contagious diseases- measles
What is measles and how it is transmitted?
Measles is a highly contagious viral disease which affects mostly children. It is transmitted via droplets from the nose, mouth or throat of infected persons.
What are the signs and symptom of the disease?
The first sign of measles is usually a high fever, which begins about 10 to 12 days after exposure to the virus and lasts four to seven days. A runny nose, a cough, red and watery eyes, and small white spots inside the cheeks can develop in the initial stage. After several days, a rash erupts, usually on the face and upper neck. Over about three days, the rash spreads, eventually reaching the hands and feet. The rash lasts for five to six days, and then fades.
Who is at risk?
People who have not received the vaccine for measles are much more likely to develop the disease. People who recover from measles are immune for the rest of their lives.
Is there any treatment for measles?
There is no specific treatment for measles and most people recover within two to three weeks.
Does the disease cause any complications?
Yes, particularly in malnourished children and people with reduced immunity; measles can cause serious complications, including pneumonia, encephalitis, severe diarrhea, ear infection and blindness.
How it is prevented?
Measles can be prevented by immunisation. The measles vaccine has been in use for over 40 years. It is safe and effective. Two doses of the vaccine are recommended to ensure immunity, as about 15 per cent of vaccinated children fail to develop immunity from the first dose.
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