An outbreak of measles in a remote village of Swat has created panic among locals, who are adamant their children have become victims of a ‘mysterious disease’, despite assurances by doctors.
The outbreak was reported in Sar Sardarey village of Mangalwar union council (UC), from where dozens of children were brought to Saidu Teaching Hospital in neighbouring Mingora.
Durrani,whose five children are being treated for the disease at the teaching hospital, claimed that his children’s condition was critical.
“They keep vomiting and haven’t slept for days. God knows what this disease is and what will become of my children,” he said.
The children’s symptoms include vomiting, high fever, fatigue and red spots and rashes, all of which are symptoms of measles, said Dr Ishaq of Saidu Teaching Hospital.
Rejecting the rumours, he said “The outbreak is of measles and not some mysterious disease”.
In a majority of cases, the children were infected by measles are because immunisation campaigns could not be carried out in the area due to militancy, said Dr Ishaq. The lack of awareness among parents is also causing the disease to spread.
There is no hospital for the entire union council, which has a population of 22,000, the majority of whom live below the poverty line.
Villagers complained that due to lack of medical facilities, they had to walk for over four hours to reach the teaching hospital in Mingora, some 20 kilometres from the union council.
“There is no road and we had to walk for hours in four to five feet of snow to reach the hospital,” said Sabz Ali Khan, who had brought his nephew in for treatment.
Executive District Officer Health Swat rejected the claim that medical facilities were not available in the villages. He said after cases of measles were reported, a number of medical teams equipped with medicines had been sent.
A team of doctors from the World Health Organisation based in Islamabad is going to Swat to collect samples from the infected children to determine the nature of the disease.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 18th, 2012.