56 measles deaths in Sindh
KARACHI, Dec 29: At least 56 measles patients, mostly children, have died while around 1,250 cases of the preventable disease have been reported from across Sindh so far, it emerged on Saturday.
The consolidated figures of deaths and measles cases were for the first time officially confirmed by Sindh Health Secretary Aftab Khatri who is in Kandhkot along with health director-general Feroze Memon to supervise a newly launched vaccination campaign in some districts, as earlier scattered cases of measles had been reported off and on in the media.
“The affected districts are Kashmore, Jacobabad, Sukkur, Larkana, Kambar and Khairpur. Doctors’ teams are visiting villages to carry out vaccination against the disease,” the secretary said, adding that it wasn’t yet clear if the deaths were caused solely by measles or some other infection such as pneumonia.
The anti-polio propaganda might have played a role in preventing people getting their children vaccinated, said Dr Jamal Raza, head of the National Institute of Child Health (NICH) and general secretary of the Pakistan Pediatrics Association.
“Earlier, we had a good coverage of routine immunisation with the result that only a few patients used to report with diseases covered under the EPI [Expanded Programme for Immunisation],” he said, adding that the measles vaccination coverage used to be between 80 and 90 per cent of the target group. “However, the situation has changed now,” he said.
Dr Samrina Hashmi, who represents the Pakistan Medical Association-Sindh chapter, said that these lives could have been saved if the government had acted immediately as reports on children’s deaths had started surfacing quite earlier.
“Government negligence is also evident from the fact that measles outbreak has hit those areas in upper Sindh where floodwater was either drained belatedly or is still standing. Other factors such as poverty, lack of hygiene and awareness have aggravated the situation,” she said.
According to her, measles is a highly infectious disease that spreads fast in congested living conditions. Children often die from resulting complications.
“Treatment is available for the infection while death usually occurs due to secondary infections such as severe chest infection and pneumonia. The latter is one of the biggest killers of under-five children in Pakistan. As reported in the media, most children who died had not been vaccinated against measles,” she said.