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Health workers administering a measles vaccine to a boy in Manila recently. Measles can be transmitted up to four days before a rash appears. -EPA

A measles threat is looming in Southeast Asia, where the Philippines and Indonesia are ranked in the top 10 countries with the highest number of confirmed measles cases for the period between July 2017 and June last year.

The Philippines recorded 8,992 cases with Indonesia at 4,897 cases.

High vaccination rates led the United States to declare measles eliminated in 2000.

However, there is now a surge of measles cases in the US.

Immunisation expert Professor William Schaffner of the US said measles is probably the single most transmissible virus today, “so you need very high rates of immunisation to end an outbreak”.

When one person gets infected, nine out of 10 people around the infected person will get infected too if they are not vaccinated.

If a measles patient coughs or sneezes, others around him can get infected when they breathe in the air or touch a contaminated surface and then touch their eyes, nose or mouth.

The virus can linger in the air or on surfaces for two hours after a measles patient coughs or sneezes.

Measles can be transmitted up to four days before a rash appears, and infected people can spread the virus in public places before they know they are sick.

The measles-mumps-rubella vaccine is 97 per cent effective against measles after the second dose.

Schaffner said: “It provides lifelong protection. It’s one of our very best vaccines we’ve ever developed.”

The Sabah government must be applauded for its approach in handling this issue. Its health officials went to villages to explain the importance of getting their children vaccinated.

As the number of unvaccinated children grows, those who are immunised lose strength, leading to larger and more frequent measles outbreaks. The only way to stop the outbreaks is to increase vaccination rates.

The federal government should take a cue from Sabah, which is on an aggressive campaign.

The combination of unvaccinated communities and an infectious disease means outbreaks are certain.

DR A. SOORIAN

Seremban, Negri Sembilan

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