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Ministry of Health advises the public to stay alert as cases of measles have been identified in the country.

 Radio & TV Tonga, Nuku’alofa, 22/10/2019

The Tonga Ministry of Health has advised that cases of measles have been identified in a high school rugby group, who were playing rugby in New Zealand in September. The team returned to Tonga on 1st October.

The Ministry has taken rapid steps to prevent further spread of the virus including isolating the current cases at home, vaccinating contacts of the cases and quarantining the remaining squad members, staff and other contacts.

In a statement from the ministry, it says the high school rugby group comprised 60 boys and 8 officials. One of the boys became unwell while in New Zealand and was laboratory confirmed as having measles. Since the team’s return to Tonga, 13 other members of the group developed symptoms of measles. Six of those cases have recently been laboratory confirmed. A further person who is a contact on one of the players has been identified as a suspected case bringing the total number to 15 cases. None of the cases are seriously ill. The touring party included players from a number of schools on Tongatapu and three outer islands.

The Health Director – Dr Siale ‘Akau’ola said, “Parents of players have been contacted and provided with information about measles and the boys have been instructed to remain at home until we are sure that they will not develop measles.”

Dr Siale ‘Akau’ola advised that “the Ministry is confident that steps have been taken to contain spread of the virus, however, measles is a highly infectious disease and it is possible that further cases may occur.”

In the statement, The Ministry of Health reminded the public to stay alert for measles signs and symptoms and to get immunized against measles, especially if they are undertaking international travel. Vaccination is the safest and best protection against measles.

Dr Siale ‘Akau’ola said, “It is vital that we maintain our high vaccination rate in our ongoing fight against infectious disease. I urge parents to ensure that children are vaccinated according to the recommended immunization schedule.” Children who have been fully immunized against measles normally have more than 95% protection against the disease.

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