Afghanistan Health Alert: Measles Outbreak
21 February 2012, Kabul, Afghanistan. Measles is a highly infectious disease that causes complications and deaths, even in previously healthy individuals. Measles is fully preventable by a proven safe vaccination. We call on all Afghans to vaccinate their children. For public safety, two doses of measles vaccine across all age groups from 9 months up to 15 years of age is recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).
In Ghor and Baghdis provinces, the Ministry of Public Health and WHO reported twenty confirmed child mortality cases due to measles and pneumonia. The measles outbreak initially affected the villages of Lafra Valley (Sarji and Gawkushta in Ghor, also Jawand in Badghis.) To contain the recent outbreak, WHO recommends that all neighbouring provinces participate in the Measles vaccination. The outbreak is compounded by severe weather that hampers access. Also low immunization and poor public health service coverage contribute to the spread of Measles.
To contain this epidemic, that affected most of Cheghchran district, the Ministry of Public Health, Afghan Center for Training and Development (ACTD) and WHO set up five temporary clinics, with abundant medical supplies, in Baghdis and Ghor. As a result, more than 6,200 patients were treated by the medical emergency teams, and over 3,600 vaccinations against measles were applied. Afghans will find temporary clinics in Sarji, Pay Zaqand, Hamel, Espakhan, Zaqand Jow, Ma shams, Gaw Koshtah, Kazak, Jaw Ghaz, Sare Abe Frah, Sertakhy olya, and Sertakhte Sofla to assist them with their medical needs. Four additional mobile health teams were also established covering Qiaghok, Qotus, Pozalij Sufla, Pozalij Ulia , Guand Aab, Dahan i Sufaq, Sarban Madrasa, Bahari, Parsa Ha, and Rostam Ha in Lafra Valley.
The measles virus is in the paramyxovirus family and normally grows in the back of the throat and lungs. Measles is a human disease and is not known to occur in animals.
Measles is one of the leading causes of death among young children even though a safe vaccine is available. After getting the virus, the patient does not show any symptoms for two to three weeks. However, the infected patient can infect others four days before showing a rash and four days after the rash. . Two doses of the vaccine are recommended to ensure immunity, as about 15% of vaccinated children fail to develop immunity from the first dose.
Severe measles is more likely among poorly nourished young children, especially those with vitamin A insufficiency, or whose immune systems have been weakened.
Movement of unaware]infected person can lead to measles exportation to regions previously free of measles, if the population is not immunized. Travellers, migrants and refugees should ensure that they have had two doses of measles vaccine before their trip.
People who recover from measles are immune for the rest of their lives.
This outbreak confirms that the overall immunization coverage remains low, with disparities throughout Afghanistan, particularly between rural and urban areas, secure and insecure zones. Among under-five-year-old children, the most vulnerable ones, are those living in hard-to-reach communities; where the lack of access to immediate treatment can lead to high mortality rates.
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