Health authority on toes to prevent measles outbreak

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RAWALPINDI: As the garrison city reports as many as 128 cases of measles since May 2024 this year, the district health authority has decided to inoculate children under five, during a polio campaign in the garrison city on Monday, to prevent the outbreak of the highly contagious disease, which poses a danger to children.

So far, the city has seen 579 cases this year, with five deaths among children reported from January to June.

Two more children are suspected to have died from measles in recent days, but lab reports in this regard are awaited to ascertain the exact cause. Rawalpindi`s health authority said 138 cases were reported from the city area, 83 from cantonment, 105 from rural areas of the district, and 51 from Taxila.

The remaining cases were reported in Murree, Kotli Sattian, Kallar Syedan, Gujar Khan, and Kahuta during this period.

District Health Officer Dr Ehsan Ghani told Dawn that the number of measles cases recently increased in the district. From January to June 2, as many as 579 patients reported; 20 to 25 children were admitted to hospitals every day,` he said.

`Strangely, this time, children under the age of nine months also contracted measles. The vaccination against measles starts after nine months but the cases concerning six month-old babies were also reported in the district,` he said.

Speaking about the measles vaccine, he said the vaccination usually starts after the baby is nine months, followed by a booster shot before they turn five years old.

He said that the health authority launched the anti-measles campaign from May 20 to 25 and its result `would be received in coming days`. He expressed hope that the cases would be reduced in the coming days and the health authorities were on their toes, with vaccinators asked to reach all union councils.

He said at present, two main hospitals Holy Family Hospital and Benazir Bhutto Hospital were dealing with measles patients. `We also made arrangements in all tehsil headquarters hospitals and rural health centres to deal with measles cases.

`We are going to start an anti-polio campaign in the district from Monday and we will simultaneously check measles cases. We have already provided anti-measles vaccination to our vaccinators in all the union councils and during the campaign, we would ask people to bring their child to the main centre,` he said.

He said that most people contracted the virus from the patients in their family or neighbourhood, stressing the need to adopt precautionary measures.

He said that the worst affected areas in the district were the city and cantonment areas.

The anti-measles vaccine is necessary to protect infected children from pneumonia, malnutrition and brain diseases. The first dose of the vaccine is ideally administered to babies aged 9-15 months.

Children are given a second dose or the booster dose before they start school, usually between the ages of three and five years old.

The second dose, however, can be given three months after the first.

Around 5-10pc of children do not develop complete immunity after the first dose, therefore the second dose provides increased protection, after which only 1 per cent of the children are at risk of contracting measles.

Acknowledgement: Published in Dawn News on 3rd June 2024.

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