Measles on the rise, with 17 cases last week: MOH

A vial of the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine. Measles, which affects the respiratory system and often results in skin rash, transmits swiftly to people who are not vaccinated.
A vial of the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine. Measles, which affects the respiratory system and often results in skin rash, transmits swiftly to people who are not vaccinated.PHOTO: REUTERS

14 cases at Hougang home for people with intellectual disabilities; three at foreign workers' dorm in Punggol

A total of 17 measles cases at two locations were confirmed in the past week alone, as the number of people stricken with the highly contagious disease continues to rise.

Of these, 14 were found at the MINDSville @ Napiri, a residential home for people with intellectual disabilities, at 7 Lorong Napiri in Hougang, said the Ministry of Health (MOH) yesterday.

The other three were foreign workers residing at S11 Dormitory @ Punggol, located at 2 Seletar North Link, MOH added.

While there is no evidence that the disease has spread into the community, MOH has taken steps to prevent it.

These include vaccinating close contacts with no proof of vaccination or immunity, and monitoring their health. MOH also said that suspected cases will be isolated.

Measles, which affects the respiratory system and often results in a skin rash, transmits swiftly to people who are not vaccinated.

Its infectious period can start as early as four days before the onset of rash, or even four days after.

  • How it spreads

  • Measles is caused by the rubeola virus, which is contagious and can be passed by direct contact or through the air.

    The disease can spread very quickly in populations with low or no immunity, such as unvaccinated individuals.

    Symptoms - including fever, a runny nose, coughing, red and watery eyes, and rashes - usually appear 10 to 12 days after a person comes into contact with the virus.

    Though it is more common among children, measles can be contracted at any age.

    There is no specific cure, but doctors can prescribe treatments to relieve symptoms.

    While most people recover fully, it can sometimes lead to blindness, ear infection, severe diarrhoea and even death.

    The measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine is generally given in two doses: at 12 months, and between 15 and 18 months old.

    Local parents must vaccinate their children against measles and diphtheria. Those who refuse can be fined.

    MMR vaccination is available at polyclinics, private general practitioners and private paediatric clinics.

    It is free at polyclinics for Singaporean children. Medisave can be used at private clinics for both adults and children.

    Felicia Choo

  • 4

    Number of days before or after the onset of skin rash that measles' infectious period begins.

Vaccination is the most effective way to avoid getting infected.

As of Monday, MOH has been notified of 116 cases so far this year, 88 of which were local. The remaining 28 were imported from countries such as Bangladesh, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam and Dubai.

No deaths have been reported this year.

MOH was first notified of a suspected case at MINDSville @ Napiri on July 7. Last Friday, it was told of a cluster of the infection among residents and staff.

As of Monday, 12 residents and two staff are confirmed cases.

Six residents were hospitalised, one of whom has been discharged and is no longer infectious. The remaining five are in stable condition.

Residents and staff without proof of immunity received the measles, mumps and rubella vaccination on Monday as a precaution, owing to the shared facilities at the home.

Residents will also be screened for symptoms before they leave the home for essential medical appointments and other activities.

MOH was informed of the first case at the foreign workers' dormitory, involving an Indian worker, on July 15.

It was then told on July 16 and last Friday of two cases, involving a Bangladeshi and another Indian worker, respectively.

All three have since been discharged from hospital and are no longer infectious.

Investigations are ongoing to find the infection's source, as the three reported no contact with sick people. They live in separate blocks and work for different companies at different sites. No links have been identified between them.

 
 

As of Monday, 50 close contacts have been vaccinated. By the end of this week, every contact is expected to have received the jab.

The vaccination of all close contacts of the eight cases identified last month at Toh Guan Dormitory and Sungei Tengah Lodge has been completed. No further cases have been reported, MOH said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 24, 2019, with the headline 'Measles on the rise, with 17 cases last week: MOH'. Print Edition | Subscribe