The Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit (ESU) of the Ministry of Health reminds the public to monitor their health for up to six weeks after they return from travel, especially from countries that are experiencing ongoing outbreaks of disease that can be spread from person to person.

This includes vaccine-preventable diseases such as Dengue Fever, Yellow Fever and Zika. Infectious disease outbreaks and travel notices currently being reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) can be found online.

The ESU has recently received guidance from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) advising countries to increase the alert for these diseases after travel, especially measles. Each year, an estimated seven million people are affected by measles and measles kills almost 90,000 people around the world.

Measles is still common in some countries in Europe, Asia, the Pacific, and Africa. Measles outbreaks have been reported across the European Union, South America, the USA and Canada. According to the CDC, most measles cases in the United States are brought back to the US by unvaccinated people who get infected during travel to a country where measles is circulating. Upon returning, an infected person spreads measles to others.

Measles is very contagious and spreads easily through the air by breathing, coughing, or sneezing. Symptoms of measles include:

  • High fever (may spike to more than 104F)
  • Cough
  • Red, watery eyes
  • Rash (breaks out 3-5 days after symptoms begin)

PAHO has recommended that anyone presenting with fever together with symptoms of cough, runny nose or red, watery eyes and a history of travel from affected countries should contact their physician, even before the onset of a rash. Persons should be sure to tell the physician that they traveled, and if they have received the MMR vaccine. This is because such persons would be infectious during this phase, four days before the onset of the measles rash.

Physicians should report any suspected cases, to the ESU (278-6503). The ESU will investigate such reports and put measures into place to prevent the spread of measles.

To protect against measles, it is recommended that children and adults receive two doses of a measles-containing vaccine or MMR. Measles vaccination can be obtained from your physician’s office or at the Department of Health, on Victoria Street in Hamilton (Tel: 278-6460). As a priority, health care workers, travelllers, front line tourism workers, eg immigration & customs officers, tour operators, hotel staff as well ensure that they are adequately vaccinated. If there is no written proof in terms of vaccination cards or medical/clinic records, then vaccinate.

The ESU is monitoring the global situation closely and conducts ongoing surveillance for these diseases, with the collaboration of health care providers. At present there are no confirmed cases of measles in Bermuda. Updates will be provided on the Health Department’s website on a regular basis.