Measles outbreak claims six lives in K-P

26,725 children vaccinated across province

Our Correspondent March 17, 2024


The measles outbreak across Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has claimed the lives of six children this year. A total of 1,236 confirmed cases have been reported from different parts of the province in response to which the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) has embarked on a robust vaccination campaign to contain the outbreak.

From January to March, EPI has successfully vaccinated 26,725 children in different areas of the province.

Moreover, an additional 200,000 children have received their measles vaccinations during the Intensified Outreach Activity conducted from February 12 to 24 this year.

Despite these efforts, however, challenges persist, particularly regarding the lack of isolation wards at major teaching hospitals in Peshawar, a deficiency which has accelerated the spread of measles among children and necessitated urgent action to address the issue.

The EPI has reported a total of 3,538 suspected cases of measles, out of which 1,236 cases have been confirmed. Tragically, there have also been six confirmed deaths attributed to the disease across K-P so far, with the most affected age group being children between the ages of two and five.

The Director of EPI, Dr. Muhammad Arif Khan, has emphasized the importance of coordinated efforts with the FDI and partner organizations to vaccinate every child in the province against 12 dangerous diseases, including measles.

He commended the swift response by EPI teams to contain outbreaks and cited the successful management of the recent measles outbreak in Kohistan district.

To bridge the immunity gap in children older than 23 months, a special initiative called ‘Big Catch-up’ is underway, with support from partners. The first phase of the initiative is scheduled to be implemented province-wide in June.

Additionally, the Intensified Outreach Activity’s first round is to commence on March 25 in 69 Union Councils of southern Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

Addressing concerns about the lack of isolation wards, Dr Arif reiterated the urgent need for main hospitals in Peshawar to establish isolation facilities for suspected measles cases. He urged hospital administrations and healthcare workers to isolate suspected patients to prevent the spread of the disease across the province.

It may be recalled that, in January, the Health Department had dispatched medical teams to the Upper Kohistan district of the province after a suspected outbreak of measles had resulted in multiple deaths.

An emergency control room has 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.

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

Published in The Express Tribune, March 17th, 2024.


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