Visiting one of the Pacific Ocean’s island paradises comes with a new requirement this winter.
Visitors to Fiji may have to prove a previous measles vaccination or be a ‘Baby-Boomer to avoid getting a new vaccination.
According to reporting by the Fiji Times on December 15, 2019, about 1,000 tourists who disembarked from a cruise liner in Savusavu were called back on board for a measles immunity review.
Tourists from Sydney, Australia ‘were told that those born before 1956 could return to land, and others would have to present measles vaccination proof, or be immediately vaccinated, prior to departing the ship, reported the Fiji Times.
“We had to call back all the tourists and they returned to the ship to get vaccinated and half-an-hour later, they were released and returned to the mainland,” said Savusavu Copra Shed Marina manager Dolly Singh.
These new measles screening policies are related to the ongoing outbreak on Fiji’s islands.
Since the outbreak was declared on November 7th, about 200,000 people in Fiji have been immunized against measles, reported the Fiji Ministry of Health and Medical Services in press release #15, published on December 15, 2019.
Since the last update by the Fiji Minister of Health on December 10, 2019, there are now 21 confirmed cases of measles in the Fiji Central Division:
- 12 cases from the Serua/Namosi Subdivision (Wailali, Wainadoi, Navunikabi, and Makosoi Deuba)
- 4 cases from Suva Subdivision (Samabula, Vatuwaqa, Tacirua, Wailekutu).
- 4 cases from Rewa Subdivision (Koronivia, Nasilai Village Nakelo, Davuilevu).
- 1 case from Naitasiri Subdivision (Saumakia Village)
The expanded measles immunization campaign across Fiji is continuing to target people who are most at risk of being infected by measles and those who may spread this very-infectious disease.
One action is the ‘discouragement’ of non-essential travel to Saumakia Village in Naitasiri, Serua/Namosi, and Nasilai Village in Nakelo Rewa.
Additional target groups to be vaccinated include but not limited to, the following:
- Any person in Fiji traveling overseas
- All airport and port-of-entry workers
- All hotel staff
The only exceptions to those in the above groups are pregnant women, children under the age of 6 months, those with compromised immune systems (including those on immunosuppressive medication/treatment), and those with a known allergy to the vaccine.
The Fiji Ministry of Health and Medical Services says ‘measles is a highly infectious airborne viral disease that spreads easily through the air through breathing, coughing, and sneezing. You are at risk of getting measles if you breathe the same air as someone with the disease and you are not immune.
The symptoms of measles are fever and a rash with any of the following: runny nose, sneezing, cough, red/watery eyes, white spots inside the mouth. The rash starts after the other symptoms and spreads all over the body.
There is no specific antiviral treatment for measles, as it is your body’s immune system that fights off the disease. Most people recover from a measles infection in 8-10 days with rest and ensuring that they are eating and drinking to avoid dehydration.
The Ministry of Health and Medical Services is continuing to provide measles vaccinations free to children.
Since 2003, all children in Fiji are offered two (2) doses of the combination measles-rubella vaccine – starting from twelve months of age. Fiji’s immunization coverage for children is good, and the Ministry also conducted a supplemental campaign in 2017 for all one to ten-year-olds.
‘You are not immune (from the measles virus) if you have not been vaccinated, or you have never had the disease.’ concluded the Fiji health department.
Fiji is located in the South Pacific across an archipelago of more than 300 islands. Its major islands, Viti Levu and Vanua Levu contain most of the 912,000 residents.
The Lomaiviti archipelago of Fiji consists of seven main islands and has a population of 16,461 people while the Lau Group of islands in the Southern Pacific Ocean has a population of 10,683 people.
Fiji’s neighbor Samoa has recently confirmed over 5,100 measles cases with 72 measles-related deaths recorded mainly among children.
Furthermore, both Australia and New Zealand continue to report new measles virus exposes and cases.
To notify all international travelers, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a worldwide measles outbreak Travel Alert in June 2019.
Measles news is published by Vax-Before-Travel.