Measles outbreaks in Japan, Taiwan: Should we be worried?

Vaccination is the best way to prevent measles. PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - The recent measles outbreaks in Japan and Taiwan have raised concerns that the disease could flare up here as well. Here are the answers to some questions you may have about measles and the possibility of an outbreak in Singapore.

Q. What is measles?

A. Measles is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus in the paramyxovirus family. Symptoms include high fever, a runny nose, coughing, red and watery eyes and a rash. On average, rashes occur 14 days after exposure to the virus.

Serious complications associated with measles can result in blindness, ear infections, severe diarrhoea and even death.

Q. How does measles spread?

A. The disease is usually passed by direct contact or through the air.

Q. Are Singaporeans safe from contracting measles?

A. Most Singaporeans have developed immunity towards measles either by vaccination or through contracting the disease naturally. Under the Infectious Diseases Act, children here must undergo two doses of the combined measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine during their lifetime - the first dose at 12 months of age and a second dose at 15 to 18 months. Two doses of the MMR vaccine grant life-long protection against measles.

Q. How can Singaporeans protect themselves from measles if they have not been vaccinated?

A. Vaccination is the best way to prevent measles. If you have not been vaccinated (and do not want to be), good hygiene and cleanliness should be maintained.

Q. Will a measles outbreak occur in Singapore?

A. It is unlikely that an outbreak will happen here as a large proportion of Singaporeans have been vaccinated. This not only provides immunity to those vaccinated, but also decreases the likelihood of measles within the unvaccinated population. This is herd immunity: This occurs when the vaccination of a significant proportion of a population can provide a measure of protection towards unvaccinated and non-immune individuals.

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