LARKANA, Dec 11: Fearing an outbreak of measles in Larkana division following reports of several deaths in Naudero town and some villages, the district health authorities have requested the Expanded Programme of Immunisation (EPI), Sindh, to provide adequate funds for launching a vaccination drive against the disease.
There were reports that at least six children — four of them in Naudero town alone, one in Burirro village and another in Naich village — died of measles within a fortnight. Only on Tuesday, an eight-year-old boy, Dilawez, died of measles, said his relative, Rashid Mirani, a resident Gharibabad. This was the third death in his family, he added.While Larkana district health officer (DHO) Dr Abdul Fatah Bughio said he could not verify the reported deaths, cases of measles were constantly being reported from upper Sindh.
“We have sent blood samples of 400 suspected measles cases to the National Institute of Health, Islamabad. Of them, 125 cases tested positive for measles and this is enough to gauge the gravity of the situation,” the DHO said.
He confirmed to Dawn that a request for provision of adequate funds to launch an anti-measles drive had been sent to the EPI after a discussion on the issue.
Addressed to the Sindh EPI project director, the communiqué stressed the need for launching a campaign in the division before the disease took the shape of an outbreak, he said, adding that the letter also suggested to the EPI that the required funds could be arranged through the World Health Organisation.
He said insanitation and poverty topped the causes of measles spread. A round of immunisation against the disease along with a sanitation drive was recently conducted in Bakrani and Dokri areas after many cases were reported from these areas, he added.
He did not come up with a satisfactory reply when asked why more measles cases were being reported even after the routine immunisation and other preventive measures. He, however, linked the situation with unhygienic conditions and poverty in the affected areas.
Dr Ashique Jokhio, the head of the immunisation surveillance, Larkana, said that he had information about 550 cases of measles and that samples of suspected cases were regularly being dispatched to the NIH.
A professor of paediatrics at the Chandka Medical College Hospital, Dr Shanti Lal, said that he examined 50 cases of measles at his clinic over the past four to five weeks.
Prof Dr Saifullah Jamro, chairman of the department of medicine and allied sciences at the Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Medical University (SBBMU), Larkana, told Dawn that poor immunisation practices in the country, coupled with under-reporting of cases, was a major factor aggravating the situation.
He said measles was believed to be one of the leading causes of mortality in young children.
He said that 139,300 deaths from measles were reported in 2010 globally that came to nearly 380 deaths every day or 15 deaths an hour.
He observed that more than 95 per cent measles-related deaths were reported from countries with weak health infrastructure.
Vaccination against measles had reduced the death rate by 74 per cent between 2000 and 2010 worldwide, Prof Jamro said, adding that by the end of 2012, some 21,000 children in the country were vulnerable to measles. As many as 2,143 cases had already been confirmed across the country, he said, while terming the situation alarming.
Most cases from Sindh
He said Sindh topped all the provinces with 737 cases having been reported this year so far. It was followed by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with 648 cases and Punjab with 582 cases, he added.
Prof Jamro said that from Jan 1 to Oct 6, a total of 236 outbreaks were reported in the country. Giving a break-up, he said 51 were reported from Qambar-Shahdadkot district, 24 from Dadu district and 23 from Khairpur district. A total of 3,833 cases were reported from these districts. Of them, 543 cases were reported from Qambar-Shahdadkot followed by Larkana with 371 cases and Dadu with 320 cases, he said.
During this period, 67 deaths from measles were reported, he said, adding that 14 of them were reported from Karachi, 13 from Qambar-Shahdadkot and seven from Sukkur.
“Devastating rains and floods have aggravated the situation in the districts and a nationwide measles elimination campaign is needed to be launched on an urgent basis,” he said.