Two confirmed cases of measles in the Turks and Caicos Islands have prompted the British Virgin Islands (BVI) Ministry of Health and Social Development to take immediate action to safeguard the territory.

Acting Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr. Ronald Georges emphasized the seriousness of the situation, noting that the outbreak in the Turks and Caicos Islands serves as a wake-up call for the entire region.

Dr. Georges expressed concern over the compounded risk posed by the ongoing Cricket World Cup, which is expected to attract thousands of visitors to the region, including from areas with poor immunization coverage.

In response to the potential threat, the ministry has convened several stakeholder meetings. Following the discovery of the measles cases in early May, an initial meeting was held on May 21 with public sector pediatricians, public health nurses, and infection control practitioners to formulate a response strategy. Another meeting took place on May 31 with the Education and Social Development departments to address concerns about measles and other communicable diseases in schools and daycares.

To further ensure the territory’s readiness, Dr. Georges said a measles update WebEx is scheduled for June 11, that aims to provide comprehensive information on clinical presentations, treatment, and complications of measles, as well as public health requirements, immunization, infection control, surveillance, and reporting protocols. He said the WebEx will be simulcast live via the Government’s Facebook page to reach a broader audience.

Measles is known for its high contagion potential, with a single case capable of resulting in 15 to 20 secondary cases. The MMR vaccine is highly effective in preventing the disease, with a single dose being 95% effective in preventing clinical measles and 92% effective in preventing secondary cases among household contacts.

Measles typically presents as an influenza-like illness with 2 to 4 days of viral symptoms before the appearance of a rash. The rash generally starts around the face and behind the ears, then spreads across the body, developing into a generalized red rash that lasts 3 to 7 days before gradually fading.

Dr. Georges reassured the public that childhood vaccines are readily available from all pediatricians in the territory and through the BVI Health Services Authority Primary Health Care clinics. He urged parents to ensure their children are vaccinated to protect them and the wider community from the spread of measles.