In the wake of deadly measles outbreak, Sindh being the hardest hit province, a four-member team from the Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, Aga Khan University (AKU), rushed to the measles affected areas in Sukkur, Ghotki and Khairpur districts, and assisted the local administration.
The team led by the paediatrician, Dr Ali Faisal Saleem, worked closely with local administrators, physicians, nurses and vaccinators to optimise management of children with measles at public hospitals and health centres.
During their 10-day stay in the hard-hit areas, including Taluka Saleh Pat of District Sukkur, the team observed that factors contributing to the high death rates were included inadequate supplies of medicines, shortage of measles vaccine and medical staff, high prevalence of malnutrition, and frequent electricity failures.
“During our interactions with families, we advised them to visit a doctor immediately if their child develops fever with rash or suspected measles. Initial symptoms, which usually appear 10-12 days after infection, include high fever, runny nose, bloodshot eyes, and tiny white spots on the inside of the mouth. Since measles is a highly contagious viral disease, parents should keep the affected child away from other children, especially those who are less than one year old,” said Dr Saleem.
“Remember, the best prevention is two doses of measles vaccine, the first at 9 months and the second between 12 and 24 months,” he added.
Commenting on the outbreak, Dr Anita Zaidi, Chair, Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, AKU, said, “It is shameful that in this day and age, children in Pakistan are dying of measles, a disease easily prevented by vaccines. Investing in improving routine immunisations with two doses of measles vaccine for every child, in addition to high quality measles vaccine campaigns every two year with appropriate monitoring are needed to prevent this disaster from ever happening again.”
According to WHO, there is no specific treatment for measles and most people recover within two-three weeks. However, particularly in malnourished children and people with reduced immunity, measles can cause serious complications, including blindness, encephalitis, severe diarrhoea, ear infection and pneumonia.
The AKU team has emphasised the need for nutritional rehabilitation programmes at the hospitals in the affected areas.