Everything you need to know about the recent measles outbreak
If you’ve read recent news headlines, you will likely be aware that authorities in the Philippines have declared an outbreak of measles in several parts of the country, including Manila. According to a recent Straits Times article, as many as 57 people – including infants and children – have died at the San Lazaro Hospital in Manila. This virus is a rising concern, as it is particularly dangerous to those that are at risk – especially unvaccinated children.
Read Pacific Prime China’s latest article to learn more about measles, and what you can do to protect your family.
What is measles? How is it spread?
Measles is a viral infection of the respiratory system. The highly infectious disease is spread via contact with infected mucus and saliva (e.g. by sharing beverages/utensils with an infected person, or being within close proximity of someone who has the infection).
While the virus is typically mild when experienced in childhood, it can lead to serious and sometimes even fatal medical complications (e.g. mental disorders, hearing loss, etc.) in the fetus when an unprotected mother acquires measles early on during pregnancy. It’s also often the harbinger of other outbreaks (e.g. diphtheria) in under-vaccinated populations.
Despite the availability of measles vaccines, today the virus remains one of the leading causes of childhood mortality, leading to around 450 deaths each day globally.
What symptoms should I watch out for?
Infected people usually experience symptoms within 14 days of exposure to the virus. The most common symptoms include:
- Runny nose
- White spots inside the mouth
- Light sensitivity
- Muscle aches
- Sore throat
The above symptoms are typically followed by a red, blotchy skin rash that can last for up to three weeks. In serious cases, measles can spread to the lungs, gastrointestinal tract, and brain, leading to severe consequences and sometimes even death.
Who is at risk?
Anyone who is not adequately protected against measles is at risk of getting infected, especially when living in, or traveling to at-risk locations like the Philippines. Most measles cases occur in unvaccinated children. While most cases of infection don’t result in complications, those with weak immune systems are more likely to experience complications such as pneumonia, bronchitis, and inflammation of the brain.
How to prevent measles
Immunizations can help prevent a measles outbreak. Some parents in China choose not to vaccinate their children due to recent scandals reported in the media, as well as fear that vaccines will have adverse effects (e.g. cause autism) in children. As we discussed in our article on vaccinations in China, however, vaccines are the best way to protect yourself from potentially fatal diseases like measles. Furthermore, it is important to note that most children and adults who receive the measles vaccine do not experience any side effects.
The MMR vaccine
The MMR vaccine is a three-in-one vaccination that provides protection against measles, mumps, and rubella. Before any international travel, the CDC recommends the following:
- Infants aged 6-11 months should receive one dose of the MMR vaccine
- Children aged 12 months+ should receive two doses of the vaccine (separated by a minimum of 28 days)
- Teenagers and adults who do not have evidence of immunity against the virus should get two doses of the MMR vaccine (separated by a minimum of 28 days)
Does my health insurance plan cover vaccinations?
Vaccinations can be very costly in China, especially at private hospitals. As such, it pays to study your health insurance plan to check if it includes vaccination coverage. Many plans that offer outpatient benefits will include certain vaccination benefits, although it’s important to note here that many plans limit the types of vaccines they cover.
Cover for vaccines may also be subject to a waiting period, which means you’ll need to wait a specific period of time from when you first obtained your health insurance plan before you can access coverage for this particular benefit. Coverage terms and conditions can also vary immensely between insurers and plans, which is why it helps to contact an expert for professional advice.