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Measles: Abia records 22 suspected cases

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He made the disclosure in an interview with Nigeria News Agency in Enugu on Thursday.

Nwokocha said that samples from the victims were taken to the Public Health Laboratory in Lagos for analysis, adding that the result was still being awaited.

He said “if the result is out and confirmed positive, that is when we can

say it was truly measles outbreak and that one person died as a result of the disease.’’

He added that the ministry had done “case searching in community to see if there are other suspected cases. Random samples from other households in the community were taken for analysis as part of measures to put the case under effective check.’’

The director said that the ministry carried out surveillance about the disease all year round with informants in every community, who were trained on how to identify the features of measles and other water-borne diseases.

He also said that the ministry posted focal persons to health facilities, who would always liaise with the informants for effective surveillance at the community level.

“The idea behind the surveillance is to ensure prompt identification of an outbreak and response by all the health personnel involved.

“At the local government level, there were Disease Surveillance and Notification Officers, saddled with the responsibility of investigating suspected cases and

reporting to the state.

“Once an outbreak is suspected, it must be reported to the state. It must not be more than 48 hours for the state to carry out an investigation and initiate intervention,” he said.

The public health expert said there was an ongoing elimination plan for measles, which included routine immunisation.

He added that aside from the routine immunisation as control measure, the state also carried out campaign immunisation as a fill-gap measure for children that missed the routine immunisation.

“These efforts notwithstanding, not every child is naturally captured, not every child that is vaccinated is protected, hence the occasional recurrence of the disease.

“At every given time, you still have a pool of those not protected. Very small percentage is still exposed and vulnerable to attack,” he explained.

He expressed satisfaction that the immunisation coverage in the state had continued to record substantial increase annually.

In his contribution, Dr Chinagozi Adindu, the Executive Secretary of the state’s  Primary Healthcare Development Agency, said the agency would commence another statewide measles immunisation campaign.

Adindu said 147 teams made up of stakeholders in the health sector would be deployed in each of the 17 local government areas to facilitate the exercise.

“We have enough stock of vaccines and we will apply for more vaccines to ensure sufficient quantity.

“Apart from measles immunisation services, rendered in 742 primary healthcare facilities in Abia, the agency also opened outreach centres for proximity to reach children in far-flung settlements.

“The agency officials visit communities and organise seminars on measles and other diseases in villages and market squares, at least once or twice every week.

He advised parents to always present their children for immunisation and

visit primary healthcare facilities for booster doses.

Meanwhile, other South East states of Anambra, Enugu, Ebonyi and Imo said

there are no outbreaks of measles in their domains, as preventive measures are

put in place to forestall its occurrence.

The states made the disclosure in separate interviews with NAN while reacting to suspected reported cases of the disease at Wusar Community of Igabi Local Government Area of Kaduna.

The Director of Public Health, Imo Ministry of Health, Dr Chidiebere Okeji, said there was no reported case of measles outbreak in the state.

Okeji told NAN in Owerri that measures were taken by the ministry to prevent any outbreak.

According to him, there is 98 per cent measles immunisation coverage in the state.

He, however, urged parents and guardians of children eligible for vaccinations to ensure they were brought out for routine and supplementary vaccinations to guard against measles and other vaccine preventable diseases.

Okeji explained that though measles was an epidemic disease, it was equally preventable by timely vaccination, adding that the ministry had increased efforts to ensure vaccines were made available.

He disclosed that the ministry also collaborated with the UN

Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and World Health Organisation (WHO) to ensure that potent vaccines were made available to children.

“This is achieved by ensuring that the cold chain system is functioning optimally so that vaccines are stored at appropriate temperatures’’.

The public health physician stressed that failure to store the vaccine appropriately would make it lose potency.

The director advised parents to disregard misconceptions about the dangers of immunisation, adding that trained experts examined them to certify that they were not “biological weapons targeted at people.”

“It is proper to state clearly that immunisation is free, effective and protective; additionally, it brings the assurance of good and robust health for the child while defending against preventable diseases.

“What a child suffers after contracting the disease could be far reaching; a child could become blind, suffer pneumonia and may

suffer deafness from the disease.

“Additionally, malnutrition can result from it especially if the child was malnourished.

“The gains of ensuring your child is immunised outweighs whatever imagined disadvantages associated with immunisation. What we advocate is for people to discountenance rumors and take advantage of the free immunisation,” he said.

In Enugu, Dr Okechukwu Ossai, the outgoing Chief Disease Surveillance Officer, said that the state placed its disease surveillance officers in the 17 local councils on watch for symptoms of measles.

Ossai, recently appointed as the Administrative Manager of Enugu State Hospital Management Board, said the ministry was partnering with Nigerian Medical Association and other healthcare providers on the need to report any case of measles as soon as possible.

He said “the state’s Ministry of Health adopted proactive measures through increased surveillance by placing officers in the 17 local government areas in the state on watch for measles.

“The ministry also deployed 86 disease surveillance focal persons to the 17 council areas for rapid report to government.’’

Ossai said that the ministry used indigenous language in radio health programmes to sensitise residents on the viral disease, its symptoms and prevention.

Corroborating, Dr Ifeanyi Agujiobi, Permanent Secretary of Enugu State Ministry of Health, explained that the viral disease affected mostly children between zero and 10 months due to their low immunity level.

Agujiobi said “measles starts at the onset of the rainy season but

being a viral infection, it has no direct treatment; but you quickly treat any symptom it throws up, that is what is called constitutional treatment method.’’

He listed the symptoms of the disease to include fever, dry cough, runny nose, sore throat, inflamed eyes (conjunctivitis) and tiny white spots with bluish-white centres on a red background found inside the mouth on the inner lining of the cheek -also called Koplik’s spots.

In Nsukka, Enugu state, Mrs Jane Ozioko, a Senior Health Officer in Nsukka Health Centre, said there was no report of any measles outbreak in the area.

Ozioko said the centre had directed immunisation focal officers in its 20 wards to be vigilant and report immediately any outbreak.

She said “as I am talking to you, we have not recorded any case of measles. However, we have put all our immunisation focal officers on red alert to report any case.

“We do not pray for any outbreak but if it happens, we have enough manpower and drugs to handle it.’’

She added that the state government had provided enough drugs to health centres to handle any disease outbreak.

Mr Benjamin Ani, a Community Leader in Lejja, said his community had been partnering with health officers in charge of children immunisation to ensure that children under five years were immunised in every round of immunisation.

He said “I cannot remember any measles outbreak in my community in the past four years.

In Anambra, the state government said no measles case in the 21 local government areas of the state.

Dr Uchechukwu Onyejimbe, the Director, Public Health and Disease Control, Anambra, said the state had intensified immunisation campaigns across

the local government areas.

He said that Anambra has trained health officers and received the report on Kaduna outbreak via Federal Ministry of Health and WHO.

“Since the development, the ministry notified relevant health agencies to ensure adequate observation of measles signs in all areas.

“When a child is having persistent dry cough, red eyes, rashes, loss of appetite, and constant fever, parents must rush such a child to nearby health centre

for checks.’’

Onyejimbe said the state maintained 90 per cent immunisation coverage record, noting that “because of the recent measles cases in Kaduna State, we have intensified the tempo in schools, Churches, markets and homes”.

Mrs Nnenna Okonkwo, a nursing mother resident in Awka, said she was not aware of any case of measles in her neighborhood in the recent time.

She said measles usually occur in the area during dry season when the weather is hot.

In Ebonyi, stakeholders in the health sector urged the state government and other relevant bodies to ensure that measles outbreak was prevented.

A senior official of Ebonyi Ministry of Health who preferred anonymity, disclosed that there was no outbreak of the disease in the state.

He said “data available to the ministry confirms this fact and the recent upgrade of the Alex-Ekwueme Federal Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki (AE-FETHA) helped in healthcare provision to our citizens.

“The state government on its own, will increase surveillance mechanisms especially in rural areas to prevent such occurrences and sustain interventions in the general hospitals and other health facilities.’’

Dr Jane Onye, a gynaecologist at Salvation Hospital, Abakaliki, urged parents to ensure that their children were immunised against measles and related diseases.

Chief Magnus Ngah, a Community Leader in Ngodo Community of Afikpo North Local Government Area, noted that the traditional institution had sustained enlightenment on parents to immunise their children and engage in general safe health practices.

“We use the traditional methods of information dissemination like town criers to educate mothers in particular to immunise their children in health facilities and maintain clean environments.

“We however, urge the government and other stakeholders to provide healthcare services in general hospitals and other health facilities as they are presently inadequate,” he said.

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