By Jay Forte, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – At least three Brazilian states have confirmed outbreaks of measles so far this year. The northern states of Amazonas and Roraima, together, account for about 500 confirmed cases and more than 1,500 cases are still being investigated.
In the other extreme of the country, Rio Grande do Sul in the south, also confirmed six cases of the disease this year, according to a government news agency yesterday (Wednesday, July 4th).
Rio de Janeiro is investigating seventeen cases – one with a preliminary positive result for measles. This morning, July 5th, the Municipal Health Department of Rio de Janeiro ruled out the possibility of measles in four of the suspected cases that were being analyzed.
Superintendent of Health Surveillance, Cristina Lemos, has stated that only thirteen cases are still under analysis, including a young woman who has already had a preliminary positive result for the disease but is still awaiting confirmation from the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (FIOCRUZ).
According to Lemos, there is no confirmation that measles is circulating in the state. The patient with positive preliminary results traveled to Petrópolis, a city in the mountainous region of Rio de Janeiro that has no confirmed cases, for a meeting with students from other states.
“She may have had contact with people from other states where the disease is occurring, but this is part of a research process,” Lemos told Agência Brasil.
The other twelve suspected cases are college students along with the young woman, who manifested some symptoms of measles. For the superintendent, there is no reason for the population to be scared, since the disease has been eradicated in the state for at least 18 years.
She explains that people who are not vaccinated need to seek immunization and those who have had contact with measles victims should seek medical attention. “We are still calm, but on alert, because it is a possibility, because of the situation in Manaus, Roraima. It has also been found in Rio Grande do Sul. The Health Secretariat is alert and acting to the necessary extent.”
In 2016, Brazil received the certificate of elimination of virus circulation from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). The disease, however, has become a cause for concern among health authorities because of the low vaccination coverage identified in the country and because it is highly contagious.
In June, Mercosur countries agreed to prevent reintroduction of diseases already eliminated in the Americas region, including measles. Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Chile have committed to strengthening border health care and providing assistance to migrants in an attempt to keep case transmission low.
Measles is a highly contagious, serious disease caused by a virus. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the measles vaccination resulted in a 84 percent drop in deaths from the disease between 2000 and 2016 worldwide.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the measles (also called rubeola) can be fatal, especially for small children. Although death rates have been falling worldwide as more children receive the measles vaccine, the disease still kills more than 100,000 people a year, most under the age of five.
Symptoms of the measles appear around 10 to 14 days after exposure to the virus. Signs and symptoms of measles typically include: fever (often as high as 104 to 105.8 F [40 to 41 C]), dry cough, runny nose, sore throat, and inflamed eyes (conjunctivitis).
Also, tiny white spots with bluish-white centers on a red background found inside the mouth on the inner lining of the cheek — also called Koplik’s spots, and a skin rash made up of large, flat blotches that often flow into one another.