Navajo Department of Health issues health advisory about measles

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WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — Navajo Nation President Buu Nygren and the Navajo Nation Department of Health are warning the Navajo public to be aware of confirmed cases of measles in Coconino County.

On March 15, the Navajo Department of Health issued a Public Health Advisory Notice to alert Navajo residents of two unvaccinated measles cases that were reported off the Navajo Nation.

“Measles is a childhood disease caused by a virus,” President Nygren said. “It spreads easily and can be serious for small children. But it can also infect our elderly. We all already know what to do to guard against infection. So let’s protect our most precious populations against exposure.”

Kim Russell, executive director of the Navajo Nation Department of Health, said while there is no need to panic, the Navajo public should be aware to take precautions to minimize exposure.

“Protecting our young ones and elders who are at most risk is key to preventing the transmission of measles,” she said.

The advisory was issued in coordination with the Navajo Epidemiology Center and the Indian Health Service.

“Our priority is to protect the health of our Navajo people. Hence, we are cautioning them about ongoing public health threats,” said Del Yazzie, senior epidemiologist and director of the Navajo Epidemiology Center. “We encourage our people to continue to practice preventative measures, including staying up to date with their vaccinations.”

So far this year, 45 cases of measles have been reported in Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York City, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Measles can be serious in all age groups. It spreads through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

Measles is highly contagious so that if one person has it, nine out of 10 people around them will also become infected if they are not protected through vaccination.

Measles starts with a fever. Soon after, it causes a cough, runny nose and red eyes. Then a rash of tiny, red spots breaks out. It starts at the head and spreads to the rest of the body. The rash can last for a week. Coughing can last for 10 days.

Measles can cause serious health complications, such as pneumonia, encephalitis and even death.

The best way to protect against measles is with a combination vaccine that provides protection against three diseases: measles, mumps and rubella ¬– called MMR.

The MMR vaccine is proven to be very safe and effective. The MMR vaccine is available at all IHS/638 facilities on the Navajo Nation.

The Centers for Disease Control recommends that children get one dose at each of the ages 12 to 15 months and 4 to 6 years old.

In the event you experience fever, cough, runny nose, rash or any other symptoms of measles, take these precautions:

• Self-isolate. Stay away from others.

• Contact your healthcare provider by phone to let them know you are concerned you may have measles.

Your healthcare provider will let you know when to visit the office so as not to expose others in the waiting area.

Your doctor should have a record if you and your family have received all recommended doses of the MMR vaccination for best protection against measles.

For information regarding measles, call the Navajo Epidemiology Center at 928-871-6539 or your local doctor or health care provider.

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