RAWALPINDI, June 13: The measles cases in the garrison city are on the rise but the provincial health department is not taking any preventive measures to check the spread of the infectious disease.

The number of patients at three government run hospitals in the city has swelled to 685 during last six months from January to June as compared to 50 to 60 cases in the same period last year.

Measles leads to hearing loss, pneumonia and death among the children. The government with the help of international health agencies administers vaccination to the children twice in their life: first at the age of nine months and the second at 15 months.

“A total of 685 patients arrived in the three hospitals of the city from January to date and 10 of them died,” said Dr. Javed Hayat, focal person for infectious diseases in Rawalpindi Medical College (RMC) while talking to Dawn.

He said the Holy Family Hospital (HFH) received 371 patients, Benazir Bhutto Hospital (BBH) 238 and District Headquarters (DHQ) hospital 76 patients.

Dr Javed said at present 16 patients were admitted to Holy Family Hospital and six to BBH.

However, DHQ hospital has no facility to entertain measles patients and the doctors always referred them to HFH and BBH for the treatment of the disease, he said.

Replying to a question, Dr Javed Hayat maintained that a few years back the measles was untraceable.

“The garrison city alone has not been hit by the disease, it can be found in other cities. Even in England where the coverage of vaccine to the children is 100 per cent the patients of the disease come to the hospital,” he said.

On the other hand, while interacting with the patients at Holy Family Hospital (HFH), this reporter found that most of children had had the course of vaccination but their children were caught by the disease.

“I had been very careful about the vaccination of my children and did not miss it, but even then my son contracted the virus” said Mrs. Ahmed Ali, a resident of Khyaban-e-Sir Syed, while talking to Dawn.

“It is a general perception that the measles affects the children, even if they were administered the vaccination, but its intensity is low,” said Fareeda Bibi, a grandmother of four-year-old Bilal Ahmed at HFH.

She said that the doctors informed them that there was no proper medicine for measles but they prescribed antibiotic to the patients for pneumonia.

Some parents were of the view that like anti-polio campaigns the government should run a similar vaccination campaign for measles.

When contacted, Executive District Officer Health Dr Zafar Iqbal Gondal said that the situation was not alarming in the garrison city. “No death has been reported from the disease during the last couple of months,” he said.

Mr Gondal said that the district health department had ensured the availability of measles vaccine in all the basic health units, dispensaries and tehsil headquarters hospitals.

Talking about the preventive measures taken by the provincial government, Dr. Zafar Iqbal Gondal told Dawn that the Punjab government had started the vaccination campaign in two phases.

In the first phase, he said, highly risk 12 districts including Lahore, Gujranwala, Faisalabad and others are being covered.

“In Rawalpindi the campaign will start after Ramazan and the vaccine will be administered to the children below the age of 10 years,” he said.

He agreed that the effectiveness of the vaccine was 70 to 90 per cent.

He gave the example of developed countries like the UK and US where measles cases were reported. “You can visit the WHO website and will find measles cases are also reported in developed countries,” he said.—Aamir Yasin

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