Eight die of suspected measles outbreak

Emergency teams dispatched to Upper Kohistan district, immunisation drive launched

Our Correspondent January 28, 2024
File photo of a child being vaccinated. PHOTO: REUTERS


The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Health Department has dispatched medical teams to the Upper Kohistan district of the province after a suspected outbreak of measles has resulted in multiple deaths.

An emergency control room has also been established in the District Health Officer’s (DHO) office in Upper Kohistan to monitor the situation round the clock and ensure a quick response.

Official sources told The Express Tribune that public health experts and immunization staff had been included in the response team sent to the area.

So far, eight children have lost their lives to the outbreak, all of them older than 10 years of age. Samples have been collected from the infected patients and sent to the National Health Laboratory in Islamabad for verification.

Officials said the test report would confirm the exact cause of the children’s deaths.

“Around 20 cases were reported just yesterday. Five union councils in Upper Kohistan have been hit by the outbreak,” said an official of the health department who added that emergency vaccination for children had been launched in the area and that all the immunization staff had been directed to report to the control room.

When contacted, the head of the Extended Immunisation Program said that it was premature to say if the deaths had been caused by measles but that vaccinations had been initiated in the area.

In June 2023, a surge in measles cases in 42 union councils (UCs) in the Rawalpindi districts had triggered a race against time for the district health authorities.

Read Anti-measles drive fails to achieve target

In response, an emergency vaccination campaign had been launched to immunise all children between the ages of six months and five years across the affected UCs, with the alarming number of children admitted to hospitals due to measles infections raising concerns among health officials.

To address the urgent situation, it has been decided to deploy 1,156 medical practitioners, including 42 experienced physicians, to the affected areas.

According to officials of the District Health Authority (DHA), a comprehensive measles immunisation drive will be conducted in the 42 union councils of Rawalpindi from June 19 to June 24. These union councils comprise 19 in Rawalpindi City, 18 in Rawalpindi Cantt, 5 in Taxila and 10 in the rural areas. Measles cases have been reported in all these areas, necessitating immediate action.

DHA officials have identified respiratory problems as a common symptom of the measles outbreak which is primarily affecting children. They have also outlined a six-day case response protocol upon detection of a measles patient.

Additionally, 42 impacted union councils have appointed 52 supervisors, 354 experienced health professionals, 354 support staff, and 354 social mobilisers to ensure the efficient handling of cases.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 28th, 2024.


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