Two St. Croix Senators Warn Of Dangers Of Measles Outbreak On U.S. Mainland
CHRISTIANSTED Senate President Kenneth Gittens has urged Virgin Islanders to remain vigilant in protecting themselves against contracting measles in light of the 2019 outbreak now affecting 22 states.
According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control more than 700 people have been infected with measles, the greatest number since 1994 and since measles was declared eliminated in 2000.
St. Croix senator Gittens has called on the V.I. Department of Health and his colleague, Senator Oakland Benta, Chairman of the 33rd Legislature Committee on Health, Hospitals & Human Services, to raise awareness about measles and address the Territory’s state of readiness to combat this potentially deadly virus.
“We need to take all steps necessary to ensure that residents are protected,” Gittens said. “We have visitors coming in from around the world on a daily basis and we as Virgin Islanders are very mobile – there is a very real chance for exposure. I do not want to alarm anyone, but we must ensure all necessary precautions.”
Gittens urged the public to discuss vaccination records with their doctors if they are unsure about their risk of contracting measles. According to the CDC, the vaccination is very effective in combating measles infections.
Senator Benta said schools across the nation are closing as a result of the measles outbreak.
“As Chairman of the Senate’s Committee on Health, Hospitals and Human Services I am encouraging parents whose children are not immunized to have them vaccinated,” Senator Benta said. “The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is reporting that while none of the victims who have recently contracted the virus have died, several of them have been hospitalized due to complications from the disease.”
The CDC reports that the virus likely spread through the United States via an unvaccinated traveler who visited a country where there is widespread measles transmission.
“Measles is highly contagious and can spread to others through coughing and sneezing,” Benta said. “Early symptoms include a high fever, cough, runny nose and red watery eyes. Two or three days later small white spots may appear inside the mouth. Within three to five days the red measles rash breaks out on the face and spreads down the body to the feet. The patient’s fever may go to 104 degrees or higher. Let’s do right by our children and make sure they are well protected.”
The World Health Organization reported this month that there has been a 300 percent increase in the number of measles cases worldwide compared with the first 3 months of 2018. That increase is part of a global trend seen over the past few years as countries, including the U.S., struggle with declining vaccination rates.
“I am urging our local officials to immediately begin engaging with the community to ensure proper information about preventing transmission and identifying symptoms,” Senator Gittens said.
According to the CDC, the states that have reported cases are: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas, Tennessee, and Washington.
For more information on measles symptoms, risks and vaccinations visit the CDC website.