Measles Outbreak in Pakistan – The Paradox of Vaccination
Another few died just like that. Red eyes, runny nose, itchy bodies and malaise. Going in wards has this strange train of thoughts lingering along: should I wear a mask, was that runny nose of mine some infection, the patient I just met had conjunctivitis! A long list of suspicions which repeatedly bombard you with the disturbing possibility of being the next victim. All this beginning when I came across one of the newspaper headings: Measles hit Pakistan.
Like, really, Measles? was my immediate reaction. I thought we were all immunized to it. A sudden rise in outbreaks in the Sindh region has astonished not only me but the best health care providers of Pakistan. A number of discussions explain the cause of the unlikely outbreaks.
Measles is a viral disease that spreads by contact with the diseased person through air. It is contagious, presenting with a very irritating rash, fever and burning eyes condition during the disease. The greater majority of the population gets vaccinated in childhood through the MMR vaccine but a lot of factors are hindering this wipe-out vaccination campaign and account for the containment of disease in our country.
Pakistan is celebrating 2013 as the “Year of Children” but the words seem hollow to me when in the very beginning of the year little children all over the country have fallen victim to a disease no one thought of. So the year of children in history might not have many good memories to share considering that up to 400 children in Sindh and many more died in other regions of Pakistan. Health care providers debate and identify the recent floods as the culprit for the outbreaks. The flood areas were dominated by poor families who did not have much money to get their children vaccinated and many being illiterate thought vaccination is intended to make the children sterile and decrease the growth rate of the country.
Therefore, the poor souls were all vulnerable to the virus attack which got readily activated in the best suited weather that is winter and took our future doctors, engineers, farmers, industrialists etc from us. The defenders also say that the flood stricken areas were on continuous source of packaged and dried food, which made the people Vitamin A deficient with immune systems weakened to the extent that they became liable to the disease. Even if the situation is really so, why were 2900 new cases (approximately) found in Punjab and Khaibur PakhtoonKhwa in the last few weeks and many died?
According to the World Health Organization, the current outbreak of measles in different parts of Pakistan is a result of insufficient routine immunization coverage. So now the horizon of the front to fight on has actually risen. We not only have to fight back polio but measles too.
Few steps which we can all adopt to have prevention from the disease can be highlighted here: wearing a mask when in public places, avoiding over crowded areas, repeated washing of nose and hands when ever returning back home, keeping your nutritional status good, including fresh vegetables in your diet and the best of all getting a booster dose as soon as possible to decrease the risk of catching the disease. There might be pitfalls in various areas of the system leading to the outbreaks but on an individual level we can try to reduce the disease is by spreading awareness about:
- How to prevent oneself from contracting the disease and
- If unfortunately anyone has got the disease, proper isolation and treatment will make us all safe and will be a helping hand to the care providers as well.
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