By MANASE OTSIALO
At least two people have died of measles and 313 other cases have been reported in Mandera County since February when the disease was first detected, according to the county’s health department.
The disease has affected both children under the age of five and adults, leaving a child and an elderly woman dead.
According to Mr Mohamud Mohamed, the county's health minister, the region is still battling the epidemic in parts of Banisa and Mandera West sub-counties. “We have managed the situation in Mandera East, North, South and Lafey sub-counties through emergency immunisation, but the national government will support the fight in the remaining areas,” he said.
Mr Mohamed blamed the low immunisation cover in Mandera on the nomadic nature of the communities. “Locals in Mandera are always on the move with their livestock at the expense of medical attention, but we are following them into interior grazing fields for immunisation,” said the official, adding that the low response from the national government and insecurity in Mandera were also to blame for poor immunisation coverage.
The disease was first detected in areas bordering Somalia and Ethiopia before spreading into the interior parts. Through the Rapid Result Initiative, the county aims at containing the epidemic completely within the next two months.
Mr Ibrahim Hussein, the head of the disease surveillance department in Mandera, said the highly contagious disease was first reported in Mandera East back in February. “We recorded one death of a child in February in Mandera East and another of an elderly woman in Mandera North Sub-County, but enough intervention measures were set up then and successfully managed the situation,” he said.
Since June, the disease has hit Mandera West with 182 cases recorded mostly in the remote areas. “But our medical teams are on the ground carrying out intervention measures,” he said.
Mandera North reported a measles outbreak in July and August, recording 28 cases.
Mr Hussein blamed low immunisation coverage in Mandera for the high spread of the disease. “In addition to low immunisation coverage, we suffer from a spillover from neighbouring Ethiopia and Somalia since they have poor health infrastructure,” he said.
Symptoms of measles can include watery eyes, sneezing, a dry hacking cough, runny nose, conjunctivitis or swollen eyelids and inflamed eyes and photophobia or sensitivity to light. There is an often fever that can range from mild to severe.
LOW BIRTH WEIGHT
It can last several days and it may fall and then rise again when the rash appears. The reddish-brown rash appears around three to four days after initial symptoms which can last for over a week and starts behind the ears and spreads over the head and neck. After a couple of days, it spreads to the rest of the body, including the legs. As the spots grow, they often join together.
Vaccination prevents many cases of measles around the world. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 2.6 million people who have not had the vaccine die of measles every year. “We have a team of experts from the Ministry of Health in Nairobi camping in Mandera West assessing the situation before we can carry out mass vaccination,” said Mr Hussein.
Measles during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage, early delivery, or low birth weight.