LAHORE, Jan 23: The year 2013 bodes ill for Pakistan as far as measles is concerned as the World Health Organization (WHO) has reported 94 measles outbreaks throughout the country in the first three weeks of January alone.

The WHO report has described the situation in Pakistan as alarming due to a steady increase in measles cases and deaths.

The WHO reports 25 measles outbreaks in Punjab over the last three weeks, exposing the provincial government, which has trumpeted much about the ‘normal situation’ in the province. Punjab health officials have denied measles outbreak in any part of the province so far. According to the WHO, Punjab has the second highest number of measles outbreaks after Balochistan, where 33 outbreaks were reported in the first three weeks of 2013.

The WHO report says that measles claimed lives of 103 children throughout the country from Jan 1 to Jan 19. Of them, 66 children died in Sindh, 33 in Balochistan and seven in Punjab.

The WHO and the Punjab Health Department have consensus that seven deaths took place in the province during the last three weeks, but the district where they reported these death are different.

Special Assistant to Chief Minister on Health Khwaja Salman Rafique says in Punjab one child died in the Gujranwala district, one in the Kasur district and five in the Rajanpur district, while the WHO reports one death each in Lahore, Dera Ghazi Khan and Rahim Yar Khan and two each in Bhakkar and Rawalpindi. If the data of both health department and WHO is correct, the death toll in Punjab has reached 14.

The WHO report says that transmission of measles virus to healthy children increased manifold in January 2013 compared to the same month last year. According to the report, 2,447 measles cases were reported during last three weeks, while only 447 cases were reported in January 2012. The report warns of spread of the disease if stakeholders do not take it seriously.

In the first three weeks of January, 1211 measles cases were reported in Sindh, 290 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and 483 in Balochistan. “The highest number of measles cases and deaths was reported in the Naseerabad district (220 cases and 20 deaths), followed by Jaffarabad (73 cases and five deaths), Killa Saifullah (39 cases and four deaths) and Jhal Magsi (23 cases and one death).”

According to the WHO, the monthly trend of measles cases in 2012 shows that the number of cases started increasing in April 2012 and reached the peak in May-June 2012. The second upward trend started in October 2012.

The report carries month-wise comparative study of measles outbreaks in Pakistan with clear indication of a huge impact of the disease, which spread beyond anticipation in the start of the new year compared to the last year.

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