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Health official encourages people to get MMR vaccine

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BECAUSE of its geographical location, the CNMI is vulnerable to a measles outbreak, according to Warren Villagomez, the Public Health and Hospital Emergency Preparedness Program director of the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp.

“We have all the potential measles countries around us,” he added.

There have been measles outbreaks in the Pacific, including the Philippines, Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, New Zealand, Australia and the U.S. mainland.

In 2019, the Philippine Department of Health recorded 44,014 measles cases, including 578 related deaths.

From January to October 2019, there were 1,250 confirmed individual cases of measles in 31 U.S. states.

“We have a high vaccination rate,” Villagomez said, referring to the CNMI. “But there are still people at risk because they are not vaccinated. So we encourage the people to come to the clinic and get vaccinated, especially the adult population.”

BJ Nicholas, PHEP coordinator, said tourists and foreign workers should also get MMR or measles, mumps and rubella vaccination.

“As you know, we have foreign workers from countries that may not have a vaccination program. We highly encourage these individuals to come in and get the MMR,” Nicholas added.

In a health advisory, CHCC said measles is a highly infectious disease caused by the measles virus. It is commonly characterized by a full body rash that appears a few days after the onset of the initial fever.

Quoting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CHCC stated that 90 percent of unvaccinated people who are exposed to the virus will get the measles.

“Although CHCC believes the risk of a measles outbreak in the CNMI is low, these events [outbreaks] serve as an important reminder to immunize yourself and your children on schedule,” CHCC stated.

The MMR vaccine is available through the Immunization Program, the office of which is located next to the CHCC dental clinic. The Immunization Program can be contacted at 236-8745, and is open from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday to Friday.

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