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Unvaccinated child in Viimsi diagnosed with measles following overseas trip

Measles rash on the third day of illness. Photo is illustrative.
Measles rash on the third day of illness. Photo is illustrative. Source: Heinz F. Eichenwald/CDC/Wikipedia

According to Health Board data, an unvaccinated 11-year-old child was diagnosed with measles in March. The child, a student of Viimsi High School, caught measles on a trip to Thailand from which their family returned in early March.

Epidemiologists at the Health Board have determined that the child fell ill on March 13, when they developed a fever and malaise.

"On the first day of illness, the child went to school," said Irina Filippova, a chief specialist at the Health Board's Infectious Disease Prevention and Epidemic Control Department. "Three days later, the family took their sick child to the doctor, where they were sent home to continue treatment. The doctor hadn't suspected it was measles because the child hadn't developed the signature rash yet."

The rash finally developed and spread across the child's body two days later. On March 19th, the child and mother were quarantined at the hospital; a few days later, the mother, who had received only one dose of the measles vaccine in her own childhood, also came down with the disease.

"We have determined what people have potentially been in contact with the child and have given them recommendations for monitoring themselves or their children," Filippova said.

The child in question is a student at Viimsi High School, where there are a total of 34 unvaccinated children, among them three other children in the patient's class whose parents have refused to vaccinate. As the incubation period for measles is up to 21 days, monitoring will last through at least April 4.

In case of symptomps, possible contact, call your doctor

According to Filippova, however, it has been much more difficult trying to determine everyone who may have possibly come into contact with the patient, including those who visited Lasnamäe Health House (Lasnamäe Tervisemaja) and the general practitioners' center located there.

The Health Board is asking anyone who visited the aforementioned doctor's office between 9:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. on March 16 to monitor their own health very closely. At the first sign of any symptoms, a patient should immediately contact their doctor and notify them that they may have come in contact with someone with measles.

People are also being asked to review their vaccination history. If a patient knows that they have received two doses of the measles vaccine or have contracted measles themselves, their risk of contracting the disease is very low. If they are unvaccinated, however, or only received one dose of the vaccine as a child, their risk of catching measles may be very high.

According to the state vaccine schedule, children in Estonia receive the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) at one year of age, which means that all babies under a year of age are unprotected from measles. MMR booster doses are administered at age 13.

The Health Board is reminding all parents who have for any reason refused to have their child vaccinated to always inform their doctor of their unvaccinated status should their child gets sick, as this will allow the doctor to avoid ruling out diseases that the majority of children are vaccinated against.

According to the agency's information, a third case of measles was registered in Estonia this month as well — likewise contracting the disease on a trip abroad, the third patient was an adult who had only received one measles vaccine as a child.

Measles symptoms

Some of the earliest symptoms in the onset of measles include fever, malaise, cough, runny nose, conjunctivitis and light sensitivity. A few days later, the signature rash appears, which begins behind the ears and spreads to the face and neck before covering the entire body. A measles patient is contagious beginning four to five days before and for up to five days following the onset of the rash.

There is no treatment for the disease itself; only symptoms can be treated. Complications can include pneumonia, middle ear infections and inflammation of the brain.

Editor: Aili Vahtla

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