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Measles outbreak traced to patient zero from abroad

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Measles outbreak traced to patient zero from abroad

YEREVAN, MARCH 6, ARMENPRESS. The ‘patient zero' in the ongoing measles outbreak is someone who’s arrived in Armenia from abroad, the healthcare minister revealed on Monday without elaborating.

20 people tested positive for measles as of Monday. Minister of Healthcare Anahit Avanesyan said that 15 of them are children and 5 are adults. All patients are either citizens of Armenia or residency card holders.

Avanesyan called on the public to seek medical attention immediately after displaying any of the measles symptoms.

“Our research showed that the first case of measles [in this outbreak] infiltrated from abroad. The patient is a child, and others have been infected since then,” Avanesyan said.

“Early detection, identification of direct contacts, preventative vaccination within 72 hours and their isolation is highly important while dealing with measles,” she added.

Healthcare authorities recommend children get two doses of the measles vaccine, starting with the first dose at 12 through 15 months of age, and the second dose at 4 through 6 years of age. The Armenian healthcare ministry advised parents to get their children vaccinated if they’ve missed the immunization schedule.

At the same time, unvaccinated direct contacts of confirmed cases should also get vaccinated, healthcare authorities said.

Measles is one of the world’s most contagious diseases. It is spread by coughing and sneezing, close personal contact or direct contact with infected nasal or throat secretions.

The virus remains active and contagious in the air or on infected surfaces for up to 2 hours. It can be transmitted by an infected person from 4 days prior to the onset of the rash to 4 days after the rash erupts, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Unvaccinated young children are at highest risk of measles and its complications. Unvaccinated pregnant women are also at risk. Any non-immune person (who has not been vaccinated or was vaccinated but did not develop immunity) can become infected.

The first sign of measles is usually a high fever, which begins about 10 to 12 days after exposure to the virus, and lasts 4 to 7 days. A runny nose, a cough, red and watery eyes, and small white spots inside the cheeks can develop in the initial stage. After several days, a rash erupts, usually on the face and upper neck. Over about 3 days, the rash spreads, eventually reaching the hands and feet.

Meanwhile, Member of Parliament Arsen Torosyan, a former healthcare minister, issued a statement on the outbreak and said that he has information indicating that the imported case was locally spread from within the hospital. Furthermore, he blamed an unvaccinated health worker. “We had imported cases [before] that remained local and did not spread. But now we are factually having local spreads and I have information that it spread from within the hospital, from the sick child to others. There is also another information indicating that an unvaccinated health worker had a role in the circle of spread, which in itself is regrettable,” Torosyan said.

He lambasted doctors who believe in conspiracy theories rejecting vaccines, and are furthermore calling on others to do so. He nevertheless acknowledged the high vaccination rate in the country (90-95%), but still called on all unvaccinated persons to get the shot.

“You have a duty to save lives, not to endanger these lives,” Torosyan said, addressing health workers.

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