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Measles cases in Okinawa, Japan closely monitored
 
The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health (DH) is closely monitoring an increase in the number of measles cases in Okinawa, Japan and appealed to the travellers and members of the public for vigilance and reiterated that vaccination is the most effective way to prevent the disease.
 
According to the information from the Government of Okinawa Prefecture, there is an ongoing outbreak of measles since late-March involving a total of 65 confirmed cases (as of April 18). The outbreak was triggered by an imported case from Taiwan in late-March. Subsequently, 64 cases have been detected in Okinawa, including 25 cases (39.1%) in Naha and 11 cases (17.2%) in Nago. Among these 64 cases, 43 (67%) affected persons aged 20 to 49 years.
 
 "Immunisation against measles is the most effective way to prevent the disease. People who intend to travel to Okinawa are advised to review their vaccination history. Non-immune individuals are advised to consult their doctors about measles vaccination, which is usually given together with mumps and rubella vaccines as Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine," a spokesman for the CHP of the DH said today (April 19).
 
For those who had received two doses of measles vaccine or confirmed to have measles infection in the past are considered to be immune to measles. For those with incomplete vaccination, unknown vaccination history or unknown immunity against measles, they are advised to consult their doctor for advice on measles vaccination.
 
"As it takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop and provide protection against measles, travellers are advised to plan and get vaccinated ahead," the spokesman reminded.
 
Pregnant women and women preparing for pregnancy should also consult their doctor for advice if they are not sure whether they are immune to measles. If they are non-immune to measles, they are advised not to travel to Okinawa during the outbreak.
 
Local children aged under one year are not due for MMR vaccination under the Hong Kong Childhood Immunisation Programme. As they are susceptible to measles, they are advised not to travel to Okinawa during the outbreak. If people must travel to Okinawa with children under one year during the outbreak period, they have to consult their doctor for advice.
 
The CHP has been liaising with the World Health Organization as well as the Japanese health authority for further information and will continue to closely monitor the situation.
 
Locally, as of April 18 this year, the CHP recorded four cases of measles infection affecting four males aged from nine months to 38 years. Among the cases, two were imported from the Mainland (one case) and Indonesia (one case) respectively.
 
The spokesman explained that measles infection is a highly infectious disease caused by the measles virus. It can be transmitted by airborne droplet spread or direct contact with nasal or throat secretions of infected persons, and, less commonly, by articles soiled with nose and throat secretions. A patient can pass the disease to other persons from four days before to four days after the appearance of skin rash.
 
In Hong Kong, children are given the MMR vaccine at one year old, followed by a second dose at Primary One under the Hong Kong Childhood Immunisation Programme. The coverage of MMR vaccination in Hong Kong is over 95 per cent at Primary One.
  
Besides being vaccinated against measles, members of the public should take the following measures to prevent infection:
 
* Maintain good personal and environmental hygiene;
* Maintain good indoor ventilation;
* Keep hands clean and wash hands properly;
* Wash hands when they are dirtied by respiratory secretions, such as after sneezing;
* Cover the nose and mouth while sneezing or coughing and dispose of nasal and mouth discharge properly;
* Clean used toys and furniture properly; and
* Children with measles should be kept out of school till four days from the appearance of rash to prevent spread of the infection to non-immune persons in school.
 
Members of the public should consult doctors promptly if they develop symptoms of measles. Affected persons should avoid contact with non-immune persons, especially those with weakened immunity, pregnant women and infants.
 
For more information on measles, the public may call the 24-hour health education hotline 2833 0111 or visit the CHP's measles page (www.chp.gov.hk/en/content/9/24/31.html). They can also visit the Travel Health Service's website (www.travelhealth.gov.hk/eindex.html) for the latest travel health advice. 
 
Ends/Thursday, April 19, 2018 
Issued at HKT 20:45